Kushner to visit Mexico following latest Trump tirades

Ana Isabel Martinez, Reuters

Posted at Mar 07 2018 12:24 PM

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner delivers remarks at the Saban Forum in Washington, U.S., December 3, 2017. Reuters

MEXICO CITY - Senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, will visit Mexico on Wednesday and meet President Enrique Pena Nieto, the Mexican foreign ministry said, after a ratcheting up of tensions over trade and plans for a border wall.

Late last month, Trump and Pena Nieto postponed plans for the Mexican leader's first visit to the White House, after a testy phone call involving the U.S. leader's push to make Mexico pay for a border wall.

Trump has repeatedly insisted Mexico must pay for the wall, a stance Mexican leaders have just as often rejected.

On Monday, as the latest round of the negotiations over a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were wrapping up, Trump repeated that the trade deal was bad for the United States and that Mexico was not doing enough to stop drugs flowing into the country.

Kushner is a top foreign policy adviser as well as the president's son-in-law but has recently lost access to the most valued U.S. intelligence report, U.S. officials told Reuters last week.

A senior U.S. administration official confirmed Kushner's visit late on Tuesday, adding that meetings will focus on security, immigration and trade issues.

Mexican officials did not say whether the plans for a Trump-Pena Nieto summit was on the agenda.

Accompanied on his visit by other U.S. diplomats and security officials, the foreign ministry statement said Kushner will also meet Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.

Among Pena Nieto's closest advisers, Videgaray helped orchestrate then-candidate Trump's visit to Mexico in 2016, a trip that was widely panned in Mexico as the Mexican president failed to confront the New York businessman and reality TV star over his anti-Mexican rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Videgaray lost his job as finance minister over the trip's fallout, but was later appointed foreign minister after Trump's surprise win in the U.S. presidential election.

Videgaray has maintained close ties with Kushner ever since, including several high-profile visits to Washington, most recently an unsuccessful effort to try to broker a Trump-Pena Nieto meeting.

Despite Trump's sharp criticism of Mexico and its migrants, Videgaray said last month during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that ties between the two countries were closer than during the previous U.S. administration.

The bilateral relationship was again rocked last weekend as Trump announced plans for tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum that he later said served as an incentive to reach a favorable NAFTA re-negotiation.

Trump has repeatedly blamed the pact for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and has threatened to quit it unless it can be reworked to better suit U.S. interests.

Trump's remarks on trade have unsettled financial markets, often causing the Mexico's peso currency to shed value. (Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Simon Cameron-Moore)