President-elect Donald Trump insisted on Wednesday that he will quickly begin building a wall not just a fence on the southern U.S. border, and that Mexico will pay for it.
Eventually, at least.
In his first press conference since the election, Trump acknowledged that the U.S. government will actually foot the bill. But he claimed that Mexico will pay the U.S. back, and predicted he would probablynegotiate a deal with Mexico within a year and a half.
Were going to build a wall, Trump said. I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I dont want to wait.
Trump talked about a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border almost daily on the campaign trail, always with the promise that Mexico would pay for it. He also said the wall would be a literal one not a metaphorical one or a technological one, as some of his top advisers have said.
In other words, the president-elect drew a very clear line in the sand that potentially sets him up for an embarrassing failure.
The government of Mexico is terrific. … I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. President-elect Donald Trump
Mexican government officials have repeatedly said their country wont pay for a border wall. On Tuesday, Mexicos newly appointed foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, said theres no way that could happen.
There are no circumstances … not even the best possible trade deal, investments, support which would justify taking a step that would violate the dignity of Mexicans to such an extent, Videgaray saidon Mexican television.
After Trumps remarks on Wednesday, Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto told an assembly of foreign diplomats that the country wont cooperate with Trumps attempts to coerce it into paying for a wall.
We have differences with the United States, like the wall that were not going to pay for, Pea Nieto said, according to Mexican news site Animal Poltico. But were going to have a good relationship. …We reject attempts to keep businesses from investing in Mexico on the basis of fear and threats.
Trump insisted that he will be able to work something out with the Mexican government, whether its a tax or whether its a payment, although he added that its probably less likely that its a payment.
Meanwhile, Trump said he respects both the Mexican government and its people something that has been in question since helaunched his presidential bid by accusing Mexico ofsending people that have lots of problems, such as rapists and other criminals, into the United States.
On Wednesday, Trump said he love[s] the people of Mexico including the many phenomenal people from the country who work for him and added that the government of Mexico is terrific.
I dont blame them for taking advantage of the United States, Trump said. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I dont blame the representatives and various presidents, et cetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldnt have allowed that to happen. Its not going to happen anymore.
There are plenty of logistical questions about the proposed border wall beyond whether Mexico reimburses the U.S. for its construction. Trump has already dismissed the current fencing along some 670 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile border. He chided a reporter on Wednesday for asking about a fence Its not a fence, its a wall, he said which means he cant simply build on the existing security systems; he has to replace them.
But building even a fence has been a logistical challenge for the U.S. government. Much of the land along the border is privately owned, and treaties in both countries restrict building along some parts of the Rio Grande, which forms part of the border. Congress would have to approve the upfront costs, which would run to billions of dollars.
Trump said that Vice President-elect Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin.
Roque Planas and Cristian Farias contributed reporting.
This post has been updated with comments from Mexican President Enrique Pea Nieto.