MEXICO CITY — U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto here Wednesday afternoon, marking Trump’s first formal international trip as the Republican nominee, to a country where he is broadly despised for his vilification of illegal immigrants.
Addressing the media after the meeting alongside Peña Nieto, Trump said the two discussed trade, illegal immigration, and border security — issues where their views do not align.
“I was straighforward in presenting my view on the impact of current trade and immigration policies on the Untied States,” said Trump, who spoke second.
Trump said the two discussed his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but, “we didn’t discuss who pays for the wall.” Trump wants Mexico to pay for it and has made it a central slogan of his rowdy U.S. political rallies. Peña Nieto has said Mexico will not do that.
Peña Nieto offered a polite and careful rebuke to many of Trump’s signature stances in his remarks. According to an interpreter, he said illegal immigration and border security is a shared challenge, but that undocumented immigration has slowed in recent years. He also praised the merits of free trade; Trump has expressed deep skepticism about sweeping trade deals.
“I shared my strong view that NAFTA has been a far greater benefit to Mexico than it has been to the United States,” said Trump.
Trump said the meeting was “tremendous” and lasted more than an hour.
The two stood at side-by-side podiums with a Mexican flag in the background. There was no U.S. flag.
Trump and Peña Nieto met at Los Pinos, the official presidential residence and office, ahead of a major immigration speech Trump plans to deliver in Phoenix.
American reporters who regularly cover Trump expressed concerns on social media about his decision not to bring his usual traveling press corps with him.
Trump flew by helicopter to Los Pinos for his meeting, according to Mexican media. He did not appear in front of journalists when he arrived at the presidential palace.
Trump was joined by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during the meeting, according to a person familiar with the gathering, who was granted anonymity to describe the closed-door talks.
Peña Nieto has sharply condemned Trump for repeatedly declaring that Mexico is sending predatory killers and rapists into America, but he is now the target of condemnation at home for extending an invitation to Trump last Friday. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton also received an invitation but has not arranged a meeting yet.