Mexico foreign minister: We won’t be paying for a wall

Claudia Ruiz Massieu says a wall “not part of our vision” as President Pena Nieto says he is ready to work with Trump.

Thousands of people march against President Pena Nieto
Many Mexicans criticised their president for receiving Trump during the election campaign [Reuters]

Mexico’s foreign minister has reasserted that her government would not pay for a wall along the US border – a promise made by US president-elect Donald Trump during his election campaign.

“Paying for a wall is not part of our vision,” Claudia Ruiz Massieu told local television on Wednesday, after Trump triumphed in the US election.

Trump had vowed that he would build a massive border wall, and make Mexico pay for it.

Massieu said that the government had maintained communication with Trump’s campaign team since the property mogul paid a visit to Mexico in August.

“There has been a fluid, daily communication with different members of the campaign,” she said.

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Separately, Mexico’s President Pena Nieto said that he was ready to work with Trump to improve bilateral relations, and that the two countries would continue to tighten bonds of cooperation and mutual respect.

Nieto was heavily criticised for receiving Trump in Mexico during the campaign, after the Republican candidate called Mexican immigrants rapists.

“Mexico and the United States are friends, partners and allies and we should keep collaborating for the competitiveness and development of North America,” Nieto said on his Twitter account.

Trump has said that he would rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has increased commerce between Mexico, the United States and Canada, saying that it has killed US jobs.

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Having hitched its fortunes to free trade with the US for more than two decades, Mexico faces a hard road to find new markets if Trump carries out threats to force significant changes to the terms of the deal.

Pitching a protectionist message to US workers disaffected by globalisation, Trump has vowed to nullify NAFTA if he cannot renegotiate it and halt the migration of jobs south to cheaper Mexican factories.

If Trump follows through, Mexican policymakers say they will have to try to offset losses in US trade by promoting closer commercial ties with Asia and Latin America, as well as seek to work alongside Canada to defend NAFTA.

From 1994, NAFTA united Mexico with the US and Canada in a single free trade area, modernising its economy. Backers argue that it made the whole continent more competitive, but Trump complains it hollowed out US manufacturing.

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The US presidential campaign, which culminated with Republican nominee Trump’s surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, has been steeped in protectionist rhetoric, shaking Mexico’s government and battering the peso currency. It dropped to a historic low after Trump’s victory.

But Mexican officials were quick to try to curb fears of an economic slowdown.

Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Mexico City, said that the country’s central bank chief and finance minister held a conference after the peso value plummeted in a bid to assuage public concerns.

“Basically they were saying to investors and the market in general that was everything was okay, that their institutions were strong, that they won’t need to borrow money externally and they would cope fine from this,” he said.

Mexico had hoped that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a broader accord signed this year – but not ratified – between the NAFTA partners and nine other nations, could serve as a forum to tweak US trade ties and extend Mexico’s reach into Asia.

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Derided by Trump and even Clinton, TPP now looks to be a hard sell.

“If TPP doesn’t flourish, Mexico needs to have another strategy to strengthen trade with Asia,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told the Reuters news agency a few days before the US election.

Mexico would also seek to be “twice as aggressive” in strengthening trade ties with both Asia and Latin America if the next US government is against NAFTA, he added.

Trump has called NAFTA the “worst deal ever” and threatened to impose tariffs of up to 35 percent on Mexico’s goods.

On a visit to Mexico to meet President Nieto in late August, he struck a more conciliatory tone, stressing the importance of keeping “manufacturing wealth” in North America, but also highlighting the need to “update” NAFTA.

Mexico has said it could “modernise” NAFTA if the other two members agree. But officials are opposed to changing the basics of the agreement, and hope Canada will back them up.

“Closing ranks with Canada will be vital for upholding NAFTA,” Victor Manuel Giorgana, a politician from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party who heads the lower house foreign relations committee, said last week. “We can’t have one of the countries trying to impose its own particular vision.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies