U.S. President Donald Trump labeled Mexico the most dangerous country in the world, called NAFTA “a bad joke” and reiterated the need for a border wall in a threatening three-part Twitter tirade this morning.
In his first Mexico-related tweet of the day, Trump wrote, “The Wall is the Wall, it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it . . .”
The post pushed back at a comment made yesterday by his chief of staff, John Kelly, who told Democrat lawmakers that some of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies were “uninformed.”
In Trump’s next post — which carried on from his previous tweet — the president renewed his pledge that Mexico will pay for the wall, arguing that his position was justified because of the large trade deficit the United States has with its southern neighbor.
“. . . The Wall will be paid for, directly or indirectly, or through longer term reimbursement, by Mexico, which has a ridiculous $71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S. The $20 billion dollar Wall is ‘peanuts’ compared to what Mexico makes from the U.S. NAFTA is a bad joke!” he wrote.
The tweet follows a similar comment he made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that was published last week. He told the Journal that Mexico “can pay for it [the wall] indirectly through NAFTA” although he didn’t give further details about his proposal.
Trump saved his most explosive and contentious claim for his third Mexico post, in what was a busy morning for the president on the social media platform.
“We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world . . .” he wrote.
Trump did not specify the source of his security comment although a new travel advisory for Mexico issued by the U.S. Department of State last week placed five states on the same travel advisory level as war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen.
The U.S. gave Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas a level 4 advisory, its most severe, warning U.S. citizens not to travel there.
However, the overall rating for Mexico was placed at level 2: Exercise Increased Caution, the same general level as the United Kingdom and France.
Trump concluded his third tweet with a tactic that has become old hat for the U.S. president: threatening to terminate the 24-year-old trilateral trade agreement.
“If there is no wall, there is no deal!” he wrote.
Mexico Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo and chief NAFTA negotiator Kenneth Smith already responded to Trump’s long-held position that Mexico would pay for the wall on Twitter last week, reiterating an equally long-held position of the Mexican government.
Guajardo wrote that “Mexico will never pay for that wall” while Smith asserted that ” a border wall is not, and will never be, part of the NAFTA negotiations.”
The Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) also repeated that stance but chose a more formal and traditional approach to respond to Trump’s latest comments.
Instead of tweeting, it issued a five-point statement this morning in which it methodically countered Trump’s assertions.
“Our country will not pay for a wall or physical barrier, in any way and under any circumstances,” it said in the first point, adding that “it’s not a Mexican negotiation strategy but a principle of sovereignty and national dignity.”
“Although Mexico has a significant violence problem, it is plainly false that Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world,” it asserted in the second, referring to United Nations statistics to support its rebuttal.
In relation to Trump’s drugs claim, the SRE said that “illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons and money” is a “shared problem that will only end if the root causes are addressed: the high demand for drugs in the United States and the supply from Mexico (and other countries).”
On the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the SRE said that “Mexico’s position at the renegotiation table . . . will continue being serious and constructive, always placing the national interest first but seeking a result in which the three North American countries win.”
Finally, the SRE said that “Mexico will not negotiate NAFTA or any other aspect of the bilateral relationship through social networks or the media.”
The Mexican government’s swift response to Trump’s social media rhetoric came just hours after the U.S. Republican Party’s representative in Mexico sought to defend the president’s stance on Mexico-related issues.
Larry Rubin conceded that Trump “has had successes and failures” but argued that overall his administration would have a positive impact on Mexico and Mexicans.
Speaking in an interview with the broadcaster Televisa, Rubin touched on some of the most controversial bilateral issues.
He said that “migration reform is a necessity for the United States” and that while Barrack Obama is popular in Mexico, he deported more Mexicans than any other president. Trump’s position on the so-called Dream Act which affects young undocumented migrants has been met with fierce opposition in Mexico.
Rubin also said — prior to the Twitter tirade — that Trump had got the message that NAFTA was good for the United States and the renegotiation process was going well.
“Mexico has always done better with a Republican president and this will be no exception,” he said.
However, a large majority of Mexicans are unlikely to agree with him.
A Pew Research Center Survey last year found that Donald Trump is an unpopular leader worldwide but nowhere is he more unpopular than in Mexico.
Source: Milenio (sp)