Donald Trump and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto appeared together in a joint press conference in Mexico City following a closed-door meeting Wednesday.
Addressing reporters from side-by-side podiums, Trump and Nieto talked about their "open and constructive" conversation.
Trump, who has repeatedly derided Mexico since announcing his presidential candidacy last year, said the U.S. had the right to build a wall between the two countries, but declined to say his oft-repeated line that Mexico would pay for the wall.
“We did discus the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” Trump said.
Read the full press conference below.
PENA NIETO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Representatives of the media, good afternoon to all of you.
Next November 8th, the United States people will elect a new president of the United States. I am sure that the electoral process will continue being intense debate -- idea -- contrasting (ph) all of these characteristics of the grand democratic tradition of the U.S.
Just as well, Ms. Hillary Clinton, as well as Mr. Donald Trump, have publicly expressed my respect. As has been with the president and friend, Barack Obama, the next president of North America will find in Mexico and its government a neighbor that wants to work constructively to strengthen even more the relationship among our nations and to confront together all the challenges that we face together in common.
We -- I believe that there's great opportunities for both countries if we decide to take advantage of this (inaudible) good friends, allies and strategic allies, beginning from a relationship based in mutual respect. Even though we may not agree on everything, I trust that together, we will be able to find better prosperity and security without losing sight of security and independence are the most important and (inaudible) value.
PENA NIETO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Any close relationship needs to be visited and renewed from time to time. We always need to be open to discuss what has worked and what has hasn't. How can we improve things on both sides of the border? How can we clear misunderstandings and understand each other better?
So keeping that in mind, a few days ago, I sent a letter to both presidential candidates, both to Mrs. Hillary Clinton and to Mr. Donald Trump, asking them to have a meeting and to have a constructive meeting of the shared future of our countries. I have met today with Mr. Donald Trump, and in the near future, I hope to do so with Ms. Hillary Clinton, with whom I have been pleased to have discussions over here (inaudible) in the past.
We may not agree on certain topics, but his presence here, Mr. Trump, demonstrates that we have a fundamental coincidence (ph). Our respective countries are very important, one for the other. The U.S. is very important for Mexico just the same as Mexico is very important for the United States. We share the most travelled border through which every day, legally, more than a million people cross it and over 400,000 vehicles.
Commerce between our countries was (ph) over $500 billion a year. We innovate and produce together. As far as national security, the daily cooperation amongst our governments is ever more important to face all the challenges of a complex world.
So I had a very open and constructive discussion with Mr. Donald Trump. The objective of this meeting was to meet each other and to know about the bilateral relations. As far as commercial issues, I shared with Mr. Trump my conviction that the free trade of North America has done a lot of good to both the U.S. as well as Mexico. U.S. exports to Mexico are close to $200 billion a year. And according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than six million jobs in the U.S. rely on the exports to Mexico.
Our country buys more from the U.S. than Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, and the U.K. together. A lot of jobs in the manufacturing industry in the U.S. were not moved to other areas of the world precisely because together, we have developed a manufacturing platform competitively (ph) in the North American continent together. Forty percent of the content -- of the Mexican content is made in the U.S.
As partners, we need to work together to avoid all of the jobs leaving our region. However, this doesn't mean that the free trade agreement -- North American Free Trade Agreement may not be improved to benefit both parts. (inaudible) is an agreement that was signed over 22 years ago. The next president of the U.S. will find in my government a partner willing to build the route to modernize telecom (ph) so that it will become more effective and to generate more higher quality jobs and better paying jobs in both countries.
I don't think that commerce must be considered a zero sum game, so that only one wins and the other one loses. On the contrary, it must be seen as an effort that generates value to both parts and makes our North American region the most competitive and innovative in the world.
PENA NIETO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): With regards to border issues, I have a very clear vision. The border must transform itself in (ph) an asset for our region. We have great advances in the last few years, working very closely with the Obama administration. And with the next administration, we must accelerate these efforts so that the Mexican/United States border is more efficient and safe.
However, an important number of U.S. citizens chases (ph) the border as a real problem because undocumented persons and illegal drugs cross the border onto the U.S. Undocumented immigration - immigration from the Mexico to the U.S. had it highest point ten years ago, and it has slowed down consistently, even to the point of being negative in a net effect at this point.
Even so, we know that it continues to be a shared challenge, including the increasing number of non-Mexicans that cross our country to go to the U.S. which create in fact a great humanitarian crisis. However, this is a clearly incomplete vision of the border wishes (ph) because it doesn't account for the illegal flows that come in south bound, including weapons and cash.
Every year thousands of dollars - billions of dollars and weapons come in from the North, which strengthen the cartels and other criminal organizations that generate violence in Mexico, and obtain gains from the drug sales in the U.S. This flow must be stopped.
What we need is an integral (ph) focus regarding the border that serves the challenges of undocumented people and illegal drugs and weapon flows as cash all (ph) the same. Many lives may be saved in both sides of our borders if the criminal organizations stop receiving all the weapons and cash that today allow them to pursue their criminal endeavors.
Illegal weapons, drugs, and cash flows in both directions, have multiple negative consequences on both sides of the border. Our border must be seen as a joint opportunity. Both countries must invest more - more infrastructure, more people, and more technology to make it more - safer, and more efficient.
I do admit that the - recognize that the natural right that every country has to protect its own borders. I also believe that a real collaboration effort between friends and allied is the best route to obtain this. All the while, I express this to Mr. Trump to make a better border with Mexico, and all the friends from Central America.
It's vital - of vital importance to both Mexico and the U.S. Equally, as far as national security, both Mexico and the U.S. work together to confront all the challenges that a complex world poses. Every day the security advances (ph) of both countries are exchanging information and coordinate both (ph) actions (ph).
Independent of their results of the North American election, the next presidency of the U.S. may count on the continuing integrity of the Mexican government to make similar with the U.S.
Mr. Trump, I'd like reiterate right now what a (inaudible) I expressed to you privately. My priority as the Mexican president and of my government is to protect Mexicans wherever they may be. That is my responsibility, and I will continue to comply with it my heart.
PENA NIETO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In the United States, the Mexican population continues (ph) to with talent and creativity to development of both Mexico and the U.S. Mexican nationals in the United States are honest people, working people. They're people of (ph) good (ph) that respect family, they respect the life in the community, and they are respective of the law.
As such, Mexicans deserve everybody's respect. Let's continue working to solidify the relationship between Mexico and the United States based on the mutual respect, trust and the joint attention to all the common challenges that we have.
My conclusion's (inaudible) that the Mexican government will be totally respectful of the electoral process of the United States. I recognize its position to sustain a constructive dialogue. A (ph) dialogue is the route that gets people closer to people who think differently. This is the route that allows for a better understanding.
Thank you very much. Let's listen to the words from the Republican candidate, Mr. Donald Trump.
TRUMP: Thank you. It is a great honor to be invited by you, Mr. President. A great, great honor, thank you.
We had a very substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas over quite a period of time. I was straight forward in presenting my views about the impacts of current trade and immigration policies on the United States.
As you know, I love the United States very much and we want to make sure that the people of the United States are very well protected. You equally expressed your feelings and your love for Mexico.
The United States and Mexico share a 2,000-mile border, a half a trillion dollars in annual trade and one million legal border crossings each and every day. We are united by our support for democracy, a great love for our people and the contributions of millions of Mexican Americans to the United States.
And I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican Americans not only in terms of friendships, but in terms of the tremendous numbers that I employ in the United States and they are amazing people, amazing people. I have many friends, so many friends and so many friends coming to Mexico and in Mexico. I am proud to say how many people I employ.
And the United States first, second and third generation Mexicans are just beyond reproach. Spectacular, spectacular hard-working people. I have such great respect for them and their strong values of family, faith and community.
We all share a common interest in keeping our hemisphere safe, prosperous and free. No one wins in either country when human smugglers and drug traffickers prey on innocent people, when cartels commit acts of violence, when illegal weapons and cash flow from the United States into Mexico or when migrants from Central America make the dangerous trek -- and it is very, very dangerous -- into Mexico or the United States without legal authorization.
I shared my strong view that NAFTA has been a far greater benefit to Mexico than it has been to the United States and that it must be improved upon to make sure that workers, and so important, in both countries benefit from fair and reciprocal trade.
I expressed that to the United States and in -- that of the United States, that we must take action to stem this tremendous outflow of jobs from our country. It's happening every day, it's getting worse and worse and worse, and we have to stop it. Prosperity and happiness in both of our countries will increase if we work together on the following five shared goals.
TRUMP: Number one, ending illegal immigration, not just between our two countries, but including the illegal immigration and migration from Central and South Americans, and from other regions that impact security and finances, in both Mexico and the United States.
This is a humanitarian disaster. The dangerous treks, the abuse by gangs and cartels and the extreme physical dangers and it must be solved, it must be solved quickly. Not fair to the people, anywhere world wide, you can truly say, but certainly not fair to the people of Mexico and the people of the United States.
Number two, having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial. We recognize and respect the right of either country to build a physical barrier or wall on any of its borders to stop the illegal movement of people, drugs and weapons. Cooperation toward achieving the shared objective, and it will be shared of safety for all citizens is paramount, to both the United States and to Mexico.
Number three, dismantling drug cartels and ending the movement of illegal drugs, weapons, and funds across our border. This can only be done with cooperation, intelligence and intelligence sharing and joint operations between our two countries. It's the only way it's going to happen. Improving NAFTA, number four. NAFTA is a 22 year old agreement that must be updated to reflect the realities of today.
There are many improvements that could be made that would make both Mexico and the United States stronger and keep industry in our hemisphere. We have tremendous competition from China and from all over the world. Keep it in our hemisphere. Workers in both of our countries need a pay raise, very desperately. In the United States, it's been 18 years, 18 years wages are going down. Improving pay standards and working conditions will create better results for all and all workers in particular. There's a lot of value that can be created for both countries by working beautifully together. And that I am sure will happen.
Number five, keep manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere. When jobs leave Mexico, the U.S. or Central America and go over seas, it increases poverty and pressure on social services as well as pressures on cross border migration. Tremendous pressure. The bond between our two countries is deep and sincere. And both our nations benefit from a close and honest relationship between our two governments.
A strong prosperous and vibrant Mexico is in the best interest of the United States and will keep and help keep, for a long, long period of time, America together. Both of our countries will work together for mutual good, and most importantly for the mutual good of our people. Mr. President, I want to thank you. It's been a tremendous honor and I call you a friend. Thank you.
(UNKNOWN): Donald Trump and Mexican President Pena addressing reporters, now let's see if they're going to take calls. They are taking questions from reporters, let's listen in.
TRUMP: - - President, we were actually together for quite some time. And I think, excellent, I was with, as you know, Senator Sessions and Mayor Giuliani and we had a tremendous more than an hour. I think really very good.
TRUMP: Say it. Yes?
TRUMP: No, not at all. Look, we want what's good for the United States. And the President wants what's best for Mexico and in sitting down and in talking, we both realized that we, realized this from the beginning, that it's good for both of us. Better for both of us actually, yes. John?
TRUMP: We didn't discuss that. We didn't discuss who pays for the wall, we didn't discuss.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) for Mexico to take back (OFF-MIKE) very harsh words directed toward. Would you like to take back some of those and the wall is it a non-starter? Is there any chance Mexico paying (ph) the wall?
TRUMP: Well, I'll start. I mean nothing like an easy question like that. We did discuss the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall. That'll be for a later date. This was a very preliminary meeting.
I think it was an excellent meeting and we are -- I think we're very well on our way. A lot of the things I said are very strong but we have to be strong, we have to say what's happening.
And there is crime, as you know there's a lot of crime and there's a lot of problems. But I think together we'll solve those problems. I really believe that the president and I will solve those problems.
We will get them solved. Illegal immigration is a problem for Mexico as well as for us. Drugs are a tremendous problem from Mexico as well as us. I mean it's not a one-way street.
And we will work together and we will get those problems solved. Mr. President?
(CROSSTALK) PENA NIETO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Absolute respect for the election process in the United States. I wanted to invite both candidates -- both candidates which was responded quite quickly by Mr. Trump.
So meaning besides the issues that we just recently discussed, we also talked about the -- how relevant is the relationship among our countries, how important it is to have strategic alliance in between our countries.
I also asked and showed Mr. Trump the great responsibility that I have to defend the Mexican population, both to Mexicans who are here and outside of Mexico. That there has been a misinterpretation or assertions that regrettably had hurt and has affected Mexicans and it's perception of his candidacy of which I am fully respectful.
Mexican people have felt hurt by the comments that have been made. But I am sure that his genuine interest is to build a relationship that will give both of our society's better welfare.
That the willingness expressed of the Mexican presidency to get together with both candidates -- both candidates of the United States based on that same premise to work together.
But above all in a mutual respect among nations. This is what I have shared with candidate Trump.
(UNKNOWN): This concludes this event and we thank all of you for your attendance.
(UNKNOWN): This concludes this event and we thank all of you for your attendance.