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Trump plan for wall on border sinks talks with Mexico

Relations between the U.S. and Mexico crumpled Thursday after President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled his visit to Washington next week, protesting President Trump’s executive order to American officials to begin building his border wall.

In response, the White House detailed its own plans to impose a 20 percent levy on imports from Mexico, saying that money would foot the bill for the barrier — and along the way signaling that Mr. Trump was embracing the very border adjustment tax plan he mocked weeks ago as too complicated.

By Thursday evening, though, press secretary Sean Spicer backed off those plans, saying the 20 percent tax was just an illustration of ideas under consideration to squeeze the cash from Mexico.

“We’ve been asked over and over again, ‘How could you possibly do this? There’s no way that Mexico will pay for it.’ Here’s one way. Boom. Done,” Mr. Spicer said. “We could talk about tariffs, we could talk about other custom user fees. There are a hundred other things. But the idea is here is an easy way that generates more than enough revenue right off the bat that achieves the goal.”

The wall was one of Mr. Trump’s signature campaign promises but has been controversial from the start, sparking a row with Mr. Pena Nieto during an August meeting in Mexico City.

Tensions boiled over this week after Mr. Trump issued executive orders kicking off construction of the wall and changed policy to make some illegal immigrants wait in Mexico, rather than the U.S., while their cases proceed through the courts.

The tough talk angered Mr. Pena Nieto, who used Twitter on Wednesday night to threaten to cancel his visit.

Mr. Trump replied via Twitter on Thursday morning, saying if Mr. Pena Nieto wasn’t willing to talk about paying for the wall, then he should stay home. Hours later, the Mexican leader said that was what he would do.

“This morning, we informed the White House that I will not attend the scheduled work meeting for next Tuesday,” Mr. Pena Nieto said, in Spanish, on Twitter.

Mr. Trump then said the cancellation was mutual and that there was no reason to meet unless Mexico was prepared to make concessions on immigration and trade.

“Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless and I want to go in different route. We have no choice,” he said.

The sour relations angered Democrats, who said Mr. Trump was sowing chaos with allies and within the U.S. economy.

“What carnage,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Texas Democrat, reprising Mr. Trump’s own words from his inaugural address last week.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, worried about the effects the fight would have on imports to the U.S.

“Border security yes, tariffs no,” Mr. Graham said on Twitter. “Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad.”

The White House brushed off fears of damaged relations, saying every country should be allowed to look out for its security and economy.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pena Nieto are facing difficult politics. The Mexican leader is torn between calls to work with its largest trading partner and calls to show more resistance.

On Twitter, Mr. Pena Nieto appears to have chosen the latter path. In addition to blasting Mr. Trump, he repeated his resistance to paying for the wall and said he had ordered Mexico’s extensive network of consulates in the U.S. to shield migrants.

Mr. Trump huddled with congressional Republicans in Philadelphia, where they planned their legislative priorities for the year. At the top of that list are plans to repeal Obamacare and to overhaul the corporate tax code to try to make American businesses more competitive.

The 20 percent border adjustment tax is supposed to be part of that overhaul, taxing imported goods at the same rate proposed for domestic goods sold in the U.S.

Mr. Trump earlier called that too complicated and said he preferred imposing tariffs on imports, but he seemed to have changed his mind when Mr. Spicer pointed to the tax as a way to get revenue from Mexico for the wall.

He said given the more than $ 50 billion U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, a 20 percent adjustment tax would cover the costs easily.

“By doing it that way, we can do $ 10 billion a year and easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone,” he told reporters traveling on Air Force One.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, Texas Republican, said the tax would apply to all countries, not just Mexico. He refused to comment on whether the money should go to pay for the wall.

“Let me refer you to the White House on those discussions,” he said. “I think the big news here was this president is determined to fight for the American public and level the playing field against our competitors. That’s important.”

Back at the White House, Mr. Spicer said the border adjustment tax was just one of many ideas and that plans are in their “early stages.”

“The idea is to show that generating revenue for the wall is not as difficult as some might have suggested,” the spokesman said.

S.A. Miller, reporting in Philadelphia, contributed to this report.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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