President Donald Trump said he had a friendly phone call with Mexico's president on Friday but asserted he will renegotiate trade deals and other aspects of the countries' ties because Mexico has "beat us to a pulp" in the past.
Financial markets took news of the call as a sign that a crisis in U.S-Mexican relations had eased, a day after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto scrapped a meeting set for Washington next week over Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for his planned border wall. Mexico's peso rose on the news.
Mexico's government said in a statement that Pena Nieto and Trump agreed not to talk publicly for now about payment for the multibillion-dollar wall and described the call as "constructive and productive."
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The White House said that during the call Trump and Pena Nieto recognized their differences on the wall but agreed to work them out. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Trump had agreed to not publicly discuss how the wall would be paid for.
During a joint news conference at the White House with visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump described his call with Pena Nieto as "very, very friendly." But Trump showed no signs of backing off his threats to tear up deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
"We are going to be working on a fair relationship and a new relationship" with Mexico, Trump said. "But the United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs.
"That won't happen with me."
Trump's fresh insistence that Mexico pay for the wall and Pena Nieto's cancellation of his visit had deepened a crisis between the two countries in the first week of Trump's presidency.
Trump did not mention the wall during his news conference.
'SOFT AND WEAK'
"As you know, Mexico - with the United States - has out-negotiated us and beat us to a pulp through our past leaders. They've made us look foolish," Trump said. "We have a trade deficit of $60 billion with Mexico. On top of that, the border is soft and weak, drugs are pouring in," he said, without providing specifics.
Trump added that the United States will renegotiate trade deals and other aspects of America's relationship with Mexico, adding, "And in the end I think it will be good for both countries."
The Republican president views the wall, a major promise during his election campaign, as part of a package of measures to curb illegal immigration. Mexico has long insisted it will not heed Trump's demands to pay for the construction project.
The White House issued a statement describing the call, which it said also covered "the importance of the friendship between the two nations, and the need for the two nations to work together to stop drug cartels, drug trafficking and illegal guns and arms sales."
"With respect to payment for the border wall, both presidents recognize their clear and very public differences of positions on this issue but have agreed to work these differences out as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship," the White House said.
Mexico's government also said the flow of illegal arms and drugs across the border was discussed, and said the U.S. trade deficit also came up.
"Regarding payment of the border wall, both presidents recognized their clear and very public differences of opinion on this sensitive subject, and agreed to resolve their differences as part of a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship," the Mexican statement said.
In Mexico City, billionaire Mexican businessman Carlos Slim said a united Mexico was ready to help the government negotiate with Trump and called on all political parties to support Pena Nieto in his discussions with the U.S. president.
In a rare news conference by the generally media-shy mogul, Slim said Mexico needed to negotiate from a position of strength, noting that Trump, who he called a "great negotiator," represented a major change in how politics will be conducted.
On Thursday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer sent the Mexican peso falling when he told reporters that Trump wanted a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for the wall.
Spicer gave few details, but his comments resembled an existing idea, known as a border adjustment tax, that the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is considering as part of a broad tax overhaul.