Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday in Mexico City, just a few hours before a major speech on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona.
Peña Nieto said he invited both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The GOP nominee was the first to meet with the Mexican president and said it was a “great honor to be invited” by Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto and Trump met privately for about an hour before giving their remarks to the press and taking a few questions.
In his remarks, Peña Nieto emphasized the important relationship between the neighboring countries, saying both nations will continue their relationship no matter what the outcome is of the presidential election in November. He noted that he has worked closely with the Obama administration and hopes to do so with the next president as well.
He also asked for “mutual respect” saying “we do not agree on everything.”
Peña Nieto noted that the U.S.-Mexican border is the most traveled in the world. He also cited the economic relationship between both countries, including the $200 billion in annual U.S. exports to Mexico. “Our country buys more from the United States than Japan, United Kingdom, and Germany combined,” said Peña Nieto.
In the private meeting Peña Nieto told Trump that as Mexican president he has a big responsibility to demand respect for Mexicans, adding that Trump’s comments have hurt the people of Mexico.
“The Mexicans in the United States are honest people, who respect their families, and are good people, who therefore deserve respect,” said Peña Nieto.
The Mexican president also acknowledged that there are issues at the border, but that it should be transformed into an asset for the region. He added that the number of undocumented immigrants crossing the border has decreased, and that the highest point was 10 years ago.
Peña Nieto shot back at Trump’s comments about illegal activities at the border, saying that smuggling happens at both sides. The president said the weapons and cash influx from the United States to Mexico has contributed to violence below the southern border.
“This flow must be stopped,” he said.
Trump said that in his private meeting with Peña Nieto he was “straightforward” on the impacts of trade and immigration policies on the United States.
In his remarks, Trump emphasized the importance of a secure Western hemisphere. Trump reiterated the importance of border security saying, “no one wins” with smugglers and traffickers. He also said illegal immigration from Central America and other regions in both the United States and Mexico must be stopped, as well as “abuse by gangs and cartels.”
Trump said having a secure border is a “sovereign right” and mutual benefit. While the wall was brought up in the private meeting, it was not discussed who would pay for it.
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The GOP nominee also said that the NAFTA trade agreement has been a greater benefit to Mexico than the United States, adding that it has contributed to an unfair outflow of American jobs.
He also praised Mexican-Americans saying, “they are amazing people,” and “I have so much respect for them.”
Trump ended his remarks by saying that the bond between both countries is “deep and sincere,” and he told the Mexican president the visit was a “tremendous honor and I call you a friend.”
Some Mexicans were unhappy about Trump’s visit and protested against it. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox had also criticized the trip.
“He is not welcome to Mexico. By 130 million people, we don’t like him. We don’t want him. We reject his message,” Fox said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Fox added that Trump’s visit was “nothing more than a political stunt” to boost his poor poll numbers.