By Michael C. Bender and Carol E. Lee
WASHINGTON -- A day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto canceled a visit to the White House over President Donald Trump's demand that Mexico pay for a border wall, the two leaders said they had a productive phone conversation, then sent competing messages about the central issue.
On Friday afternoon, the Mexican government released a statement in Spanish about the phone call saying the presidents had agreed not to talk publicly about the funding of the wall. The White House statement, otherwise virtually identical, made no mention of such an agreement. White House officials did not respond to requests to clarify whether Mr. Trump indeed agreed not to speak publicly about Mexico possibly paying for the wall.
Such a commitment from Mr. Trump would be remarkable for the outspoken president, given that his promise to build a wall, and have Mexico pay for it, was a signature fixture of his campaign for the White House and has dominated the first days of his presidency.
At the news conference on Friday, Mr. Trump said he had spoken with Mr. Peña Nieto about renegotiating trade deals, specifically the North American Free Trade Agreement, and about "working on a fair relationship, a new relationship."
He also maintained his hard line on what he describes as an unbalanced trade relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.
"The United States cannot continue to lose vast amounts of business, vast amounts of companies and millions and millions of people losing their jobs," Mr. Trump said.
He said Mexico "beat us to a pulp" on trade negotiations and vowed that"I'm not going to let that happen" any more. He said the two presidents have a "very good relationship" and described the hourlong conversation as a "very good call."
The phone conversation came a day after Mr. Peña Nieto canceled a Tuesday trip to Washington after Mr. Trump tweeted that unless Mexico was willing to pay for construction of the border wall, it would be better not to have the meeting. Mr. Trump had signed an executive order Wednesday calling for a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
In their respective statements, the White House and the Mexican president's office said the two heads of state had a "constructive" and "productive" conversation that touched on the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, the importance of the friendship between the two nations, and the need to cooperate to halt the traffic of illegal drugs and weapons.
The Mexican government's statement also said: "The presidents also agreed for now not totalk publicly about this controversial issue."
Both leaders instructed their teams to continue the dialogue.
Anthony Harrup contributed to this article.
Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 27, 2017 17:01 ET (22:01 GMT)
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