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JARED IN MEXICO Meets Pena Nieto amid tensions over NAFTA and border wall

Issued: 2018-03-07

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House advisor, traveled to Mexico on Wednesday for talks with top Mexican officials, including President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The Mexican media reported that Kushner was whisked to a meeting in Mexico City with Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, who has cultivated a close relationship with the Trump confidant.

Kushner later met with Peña Nieto, the Foreign Ministry confirmed.

Details of the high-level talks were not immediately available.

Among the issues on the agenda, officials said, are trade, immigration, security and the closely linked economies of the two North American neighbors.

Here in Mexico, Kushner's visit was widely seen as a move to soothe rocky U.S.-Mexico relations.

The binational bond has been fraught since Trump assumed office after a presidential campaign marked by what many Mexicans view as blatant Mexico-bashing and scapegoating of Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Kushner' s visit comes as tension between the two neighbors have flared anew amid profound differences about trade policy and Trump's insistence that Mexico pay for a wall along the southern U.S. border — a demand that Mexico has repeatedly and emphatically rejected.

The U.S.-Mexico tension led to the resignation last week of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, who is said to have viewed her role as undercut by the machinations of Kushner and Videgaray

A planned visit by Peña Nieto to Washington was postponed last month, reportedly after a tense telephone call during which Trump again pressed his Mexican counterpart to pick up the bill for the multibillion-dollar wall, which is to be built on the U.S. side of the border.

That aborted trip recalled a headline-grabbing episode in January 2017 when Peña Nieto announced he had scuttled a visit to the White House because of the wall dispute.

The canceled trip just weeks after Trump's inauguration set a downbeat tone for U.S.-Mexico relations during the Trump era — though, in subsequent months, officials from both nations sought to relieve strains.

Just this week, however, tension ratcheted up anew in connection with another incendiary issue: the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the almost quarter-century-old trade pact among Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Trump has repeatedly called NAFTA a "disaster" that helped hollow out the U.S. manufacturing sector and sent jobs to Mexico.

On Monday, Trump declared in a Twitter message that he would consider exempting Mexico and Canada from planned tariffs on imported steel and aluminum "if a new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed."

The Mexican and Canadian governments rejected Trump's comments and vowed to retaliate economically should Washington impose new tariffs on metal imports.


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