Rejecting anti-Mexico rhetoric from Republican nominee Donald Trump, President Obama said Friday that Mexico is “critically important to our own well-being.”
At a White House press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Mr. Obama said he wanted to set the record straight on Mexico, “especially given some of the heated rhetoric that we sometimes hear.”
“The United States values tremendously our enduring partnership with Mexico and our extraordinary ties of family and friendship with the Mexican people,” Mr. Obama said. “On a whole host of issues, from our shared security, to climate change, Mexico is a critical partner.”
He said Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the U.S. and that millions of tourists, friends and business people “cross the border legally” every year.
“We are not just strategic and economic partners. We are also neighbors, and we’re friends, and we’re family — including millions of Americans that are tied to Mexico by culture and by language,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m confident that our nations will continue to grow even stronger and more prosperous together in the future.”
Mr. Trump proposes, if elected, to force Mexico to pay for a wall on the U.S. border to stop illegal immigrants, drug trafficking and other problems.
Mr. Obama said Mexico “has been a consistent, strong partner with us” on border security and other issues.
“If they had not been, we would have had much bigger problems on our borders,” he said. “A Mexico that has a healthy economy, a Mexico that can help us build stability and security in Central America, that’s going to do a lot more to solve any migration crisis or drug trafficking problem than a wall.”
Mr. Pena Nieto, whose six-year term began in 2012, expressed “my absolute will of collaboration to whomever is selected in November as the leader of this great nation.”
“Mrs. Hillary Clinton and Mr. Donald Trump, I would like to express to both of them my greatest respect, my deepest respect,” he said. “The next madam or president of the United States will find in Mexico and its government a constructive attitude with proposals and good faith to strengthen the relationship between our two nations.”
Mr. Pena Nieto said his previously reported criticisms of Mr. Trump were “taken out of context.”
“Never before have I said anything, have I given any adjective to any of the candidates in the democratic competition here in the United States,” the Mexican leader said through a translator. “Any issue, anything that I have said has been taken out of context. And especially as we gather everything that has been said on this process. … I have expressed absolute respect for this process, because I reiterate, this is an issue that in the decision of the American people, exclusively of the people of the United States.”