Mexico president cancels Trump talks in US wall row

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto. (AFP/PRESIDENCIA DE MEXICO)
Updated 27 January 2017

Mexico president cancels Trump talks in US wall row

MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Thursday called off a meeting with Donald Trump as tensions over the US leader’s vow to make Mexico fund a new wall on the neighbors’ border boiled over.
Trump had been scheduled to receive Pena Nieto at the White House next week, for their first meeting since the inauguration. Instead, the Republican president is facing a foreign policy spat during his first week in the Oval Office.
But their escalating war of words over who would fund the proposed border wall — a central pledge made by Trump during his successful presidential campaign — escalated to the breaking point on Thursday.
“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting,” Trump said on Twitter in the morning.
The bareknuckle early-morning tweet — already a signature Trump move — shocked diplomats, but was in keeping with the mogul’s hardball approach to negotiations and is likely to delight his supporters. Pena Nieto didn’t take long to rise to the challenge.
“We informed the White House this morning that I will not attend the working meeting scheduled for next Tuesday” with Trump in Washington, the Mexican leader responded on Twitter.
“Mexico reiterates its willingness to work with the United States to reach agreements in both nations’ interests.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that the “lines of communications” would remain open and Washington hoped to “schedule something in the future.”
The first salvos between the two presidents came Wednesday, when Trump ordered officials to begin to “plan, design and construct a physical wall” along the 3,200km US-Mexico border.
Stemming immigration was a central plank of Trump’s election campaign, but he has struggled to articulate how the wall will be paid for, beyond saying “Mexico will pay.”
Republican leaders announced Thursday they would try to carve out $12-15 billion worth of US taxpayers’ money for the project.
Trump’s order had put Pena Nieto under fierce domestic pressure to hit back, and hit back the Mexican leader did in a video message to the nation late Wednesday.
“I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us,” Pena Nieto said.
“I have said it time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall,” he added.
Around two in three Mexicans have a favorable opinion of the US, according to Pew surveys, but anti-American and anti-Trump sentiment is not uncommon.
Pena Nieto saw his own approval rating slide late last year, after he hosted Trump — then still a White House candidate — in Mexico City.


Trump also took to Twitter on Thursday to gripe about the trade gap between Mexico and the United States.
“The US has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost,” he said.
That deficit for the trade in goods is slightly higher than the overall trade deficit -- including services -- of $49 billion in 2015.
Trump has vowed to renegotiate the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico the United States and Canada.
That renegotiation could provide one way for Trump to claim victory, through increased tariffs on Mexican goods or higher border transit costs.
But it could also risk retaliatory tariffs or blowback from US firms who export $267 billion a year south of the border.
Trump has also ordered officials to scour US government departments and agencies in search of “direct and indirect” aid or assistance to the Mexican government and report back within 30 days.
The United States is expected to provide about $134 million worth of assistance to Mexico this year, with much of the spending wrapped up in the “Merida Initiative” to combat drug cartels.
Trump was in Philadelphia on Thursday for a Republican congressional retreat, where he will have to calm some jitters.
While Trump has pursued a solidly conservative governing agenda, his outbursts over inauguration crowd size, his war of words with the media, and revival of his claim of massive voter fraud has led to concerns within his own party.
The Philadelphia meeting will feature another high-profile guest: British Prime Minister Theresa May, who will become the first foreign leader to meet Trump since his inauguration.
May, who addresses the Republican retreat shortly after Trump, will almost certainly discuss the prospects of a key post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.
The two leaders will meet in Washington on Friday and hold a joint news conference, the White House said.
US authorities lack resources to process Haitians quickly enough, leading Mexican authorities to create a ticketing system that leaves them waiting in Tijuana for weeks. Migrant shelters are full, forcing many to sleep on the streets.
Fences and other barriers already blanket about 700 miles of border, much of it in California and Arizona. In San Diego, they helped to virtually shut down what was the busiest corridor for illegal crossings in the 1990s. It’s now one of the most fortified stretches of landscape on the 2,000-mile divide between the two countries.
Border Patrol sector chiefs were asked in November to identify areas where the fence could be expanded, though Trump and his advisers have yet to detail their next steps. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council and a member of Trump’s transition team, supports building a wall in strategic locations and reinforcing existing barriers in certain areas but not where there are natural obstacles, like the Rio Grande river in Texas.
“We do not need a Great Wall of China from California to Texas,” Judd said in an interview last week.
Away from the border, Trump drew support from his base. Tammy Allen, a 52-year-old supporter from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, applauded Trump’s interest in curbing the number of refugees coming to the US and building a wall.
“A lot of countries do. Why not us? Something has got to be done,” she said.


Coronavirus spreads in China prisons, Korean church as fears weigh on global markets

Updated 1 min 20 sec ago

Coronavirus spreads in China prisons, Korean church as fears weigh on global markets

  • Hubei doubles Wednesday’s number of reported new cases
  • Global stock markets, US business activity hit

BEIJING/SEOUL : The coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in Chinese prisons, authorities said, as cases climbed outside the epicenter in Hubei province, including 100 more in South Korea and a worsening outbreak in Italy where officials announced the country’s first death.
A total of 234 infections among Chinese prisoners outside Hubei ended 16 straight days of declines in new mainland cases. Another 271 cases were reported in prisons in Hubei — where the virus first emerged in December in its now locked-down capital, Wuhan.
US stocks sold off and the Nasdaq had its worst daily percentage decline in about three weeks on Friday as the spike in new coronavirus cases and data showing a stall in US business activity in February fueled investors’ fears about economic growth. The rise in coronavirus cases sent investors scrambling for safe havens such as gold and government bonds.
Chinese state television quoted Communist Party rulers as saying the outbreak had not yet peaked amid a jump in cases in a hospital in Beijing.
Total cases of the new coronavirus in the Chinese capital neared 400 with four deaths.
China has reported a total of 75,567 cases of the virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) including 2,239 deaths. In the past 24 hours, China reported 892 new confirmed cases and 118 deaths.
US activity in the manufacturing and services sectors stalled over growing concern of the potential toll of the virus, a survey of purchasing managers showed on Friday.
The IHS Markit flash services sector Purchasing Managers’ Index dropped to its lowest since October 2013, signaling that a sector accounting for roughly two-thirds of the US economy was in contraction for the first time since 2016.
Data also showed Japan’s factory activity suffered its steepest contraction in seven years in February, underlining the risk of a recession there as the impact of the outbreak spreads. Asian and European stocks also fell.
The impact of the outbreak on global growth “may be large” given China’s role in the world economy, and may stress financial markets just as tensions over a US-China trade war did in 2019, Bank of England policymaker Silvana Tenreyro said on Friday.
The outbreak may curb demand for oil in China and other Asian countries, depressing prices to as low as $57 a barrel and clouding growth prospects across the Middle East, the Institute of International Finance said.
The WHO warned that the window of opportunity to contain the international spread of the epidemic was closing after cases were reported in Iran and Lebanon.
An outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy worsened on Friday as officials announced and 78-year-old man was the first Italian to die after being infected. The man was among 17 confirmed cases, including the country’s first known cases of local transmission.
The virus has emerged in 26 countries and territories outside mainland China, killing 11 people, according to a Reuters tally.
“There still is a chance we can focus principally on containment, but it’s getting harder because we’re getting secondary chains of transmission in other countries now,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a US infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt University.

South Korea hot spot
The spike in cases in jails in the northern province of Shandong and Zhejiang in the east made up most of the 258 newly confirmed Chinese infections outside Hubei province on Friday.
Authorities said officials deemed responsible for the outbreaks had been fired and the government had sent a team to investigate the Shandong outbreak, media reported.
Hubei, adding to case-reporting confusion, doubled the number of new cases it initially reported on Wednesday to 775 from 349. The lower number was a result of going back to counting only cases confirmed with genetic tests, rather than including those detected by chest scans.
South Korea is the latest hot spot with 100 new cases doubling its total to 204, most in Daegu, a city of 2.5 million, where scores were infected in what authorities called a “super-spreading event” at a church, traced to an infected 61-year-old woman who attended services.
South Korean officials designated Daegu and neighboring Cheongdo county as special care zones where additional medical staff and isolation facilities will be deployed. Malls, restaurants and streets in the city were largely empty with the mayor calling the outbreak an “unprecedented crisis.”
Another center of infection has been the Diamond Princess cruise ship held under quarantine in Japan since Feb. 3, with more than 630 cases accounting for the biggest infection cluster outside China. Australia said on Saturday that four more of its nationals evacuated from the cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus in addition to two individuals previously identified.
Some 35 British passengers were due to arrive back home on Saturday after spending more than two weeks stuck on the quarantined.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that of 329 Americans evacuated from the ship, 18 have tested positive for the virus.
A second group of Chinese citizens from Hong Kong who had been aboard the Diamond Princess have been flown home from Japan, Xinhua News reported.
In the Iranian city of Qom, state TV showed voters in the parliamentary election wearing surgical masks after the country confirmed 13 new cases, including two deaths. Health officials on Thursday called for all religious gatherings the holy city of Qom to be suspended.
Ukraine’s health minister joined evacuees from China for two weeks’ quarantine in a sanatorium on Friday in a show of solidarity after fears over the possible spread of coronavirus led to clashes between protesters and police.