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Mexican president cancels meeting with Trump amid spat over border wall

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Thursday he has canceled an upcoming meeting with President Trump amid a spat over Peña Nieto’s refusal to pay for a planned wall along the U.S. southern border. Trump has long vowed that Mexico would pay for the construction project.

“This morning we informed the White House that I will not attend the scheduled work meeting for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” Peña Nieto announced on Twitter.

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At a Republican retreat in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon, Trump claimed it was a mutual decision.

“The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting,” Trump said.

“We will look for a date to schedule something in the future,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters aboard Air Force One while en route to the retreat. “We will keep the lines of communication open.”

Trump had threatened to scrap the meeting earlier in the day. And that shot came after Peña Nieto already publicly flirted with the idea of canceling the meeting.

“The U.S. has a 60 billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “It has been a one-sided deal from the beginning of NAFTA with massive numbers of jobs and companies lost.”

“If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall,” the president continued, “then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.”

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Trump had been scheduled to meet with Peña Nieto in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31.

On Wednesday, Trump announced plans to forge ahead with his promise to build the wall. In response, Peña Nieto said he was consulting with U.S. and Mexican officials about his “next steps.”

“I regret and reject the decision of the U.S. to build the wall,” Peña Nieto said in a televised address. “Mexico does not believe in walls. I’ve said time and again: Mexico will not pay for any wall.”

Trump displays one of the four executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Trump displays one of the four executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Earlier Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order saying it was his administration’s policy to “immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.” He also pledged an increase in Border Patrol forces and the number of immigration enforcement officers who carry out deportations.

At the GOP retreat, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump’s border wall will cost between $12 billion and $15 billion, and that Congress will pay for it.

Related: GOP leaders will fork over at least $12 billion for border wall

In an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday night, Trump said the construction cost will later be reimbursed by Mexico.

“Ultimately it will come out of what’s happening with Mexico,” Trump said. “We’re going to be starting those negotiations relatively soon. And we will, in a form, be reimbursed by Mexico.”

But the president refused to provide specifics. During the campaign, in which he deployed caustic rhetoric toward Mexico, Trump suggested he would force the country to pay for the wall by blocking remittances Mexicans living in the U.S. send to their families back home.

“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” Trump told ABC.

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