Tentative plans for a trip by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to the White House have been scrapped after he and President Donald Trump spoke by phone and tangled once again over Trump's plans to erect a border wall, according to news reports.
The two leaders spoke for about 50 minutes Tuesday and devoted much of the conversation to the wall, the Washington Post reported. Citing unidentified sources, the Post said Trump once again insisted that Mexico pay for the wall. Pena Nieto once again said Mexico would not.
The Post said one Mexican official said Trump "lost his temper," while U.S. officials described him being more exasperated.
While both Washington and Mexico City confirmed that Trump and Pena Nieto spoke Tuesday, both sides provided only sketchy accounts of the call. Reuters reported that both governments agreed now was not the time for Pena Nieto visit to Washington.
Mexican authorities had never confirmed that Pena Nieto was scheduled to travel this month to Washington, despite reports in the Mexican media that such a trip was planned.
Reports suggested that Pena Nieto's advisers had been closely considering both the potential benefits and pitfalls of such a meeting since the Mexican secretary of foreign relations, Luis Videgaray, returned from Washington this month with word that the Trump administration would be receptive to a visit.
But ultimately the "volatility" of Trump and the "lack of certainty about his commitments and actions" led Mexican officials to defer the meeting, columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio wrote Friday in the El Horizonte newspaper of Monterrey.
The major sticking point to a White House visit is the possibility that the Mexican president could end up looking bad or even being humiliated should the unpredictable Trump renew his insistence that Mexico pay for his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The theme is the same that they have clashed about publicly on other occasions, the border wall," Riva Palacio wrote.
Mexico's cautious approach suggests that Mexican officials were seeking to stage-manage the visit in such a way as to avoid awkward moments for Pena Nieto, who never gives news conferences and is most comfortable in heavily choreographed political events.
Any public perception emerging from a White House meeting that Trump bullied Pena Nieto — or that the Mexican president was submissive to his U.S. counterpart — could have substantial political blowback in Mexico during a presidential election year.
Polls have shown Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party off to a slow start before to July's elections.
Patrick McDonnell and Cecilia Sanchez contributed in Mexico City contributed to this report.