Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has described as “not negotiable” the idea that his country should pay for the border wall between the United States and Mexico despite expressing willingness to maintain good relations with the northern neighbor.
"There are things that are not negotiable, things that cannot and will not be negotiated. The fact that it is being said that Mexico should pay for the wall is something that is simply not negotiable," Videgaray said during a press conference at the Mexican embassy in Washington on Thursday.
"Just as we offer respect, we Mexicans must respect ourselves, our history and national symbols," he added.
The top Mexican diplomat made the comments after US President Donald Trump ordered the design and construction of a wall along the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border and later floated the idea of imposing a 20-percent import tax on Mexican goods to cover the cost of building the wall.
Denouncing the move, Videgaray said levying tax on Mexican imports, particularly household goods and groceries, would only harm Americans.
"Here in the United States avocados, washing machines, televisions, many things that North American families like to buy and that are expensive, would cost more," he said. "It would be the American consumer who would be paying."
The senior official also sought to pave the way for a meeting between the new US president and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, who had cancelled a planned trip to Washington after Trump said it would be better for the Mexican leader not to come if Mexico would not pay for the wall.
"We recognize that it is the beginning of a new relationship with President Trump and his government. We recognize that, as President Pena Nieto has said, we are ready to negotiate. We have clear priorities and objectives," Videgaray noted.
Trump, who assumed office last Friday, has repeatedly pledged to build a wall along the southern border to prevent more immigrants from entering the US illegally, and has promised to have Mexico cover the cost of the construction of his proposed wall.
While the new US president has estimated that erecting the wall would cost $8 billion, recent congressional legislation put the cost at $10 billion, but construction experts insist the actual cost could be more than double that amount.
Trump has also called illegal Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, and has vowed to deport some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows in the United States.