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Jared Kushner meets with Nieto amid flaring U.S.-Mexico tensions

By Susan McFarland
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, center-left, speaks to White House adviser Jared Kushner, center-right, during a meeting Wednesday at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Presidency of Mexico/EPA-EFE
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, center-left, speaks to White House adviser Jared Kushner, center-right, during a meeting Wednesday at the Los Pinos residence in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Presidency of Mexico/EPA-EFE

March 8 (UPI) -- White House adviser Jared Kushner traveled to Mexico to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for talks about issues creating tension between the neighboring countries.

Representatives of the two countries are working toward "agreements beneficial to both nations," according to a statement by the Mexican government -- which added the sessions "will depend on the level of progress achieved" over issues like trade, security and immigration.

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Kushner, President Donald Trump's son in-law whose top secret security clearance was stripped last month, also met with Mexican minister Luis Videgaray.

The meeting Wednesday came days after U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson announced plans to resign in May -- saying her role was undercut by Videgaray, who built a back-channel relationship to the White House through Kushner.

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Jacobson, a diplomat with more than 30 years of experience in the region, was not invited to join Kushner in Wednesday's meeting.

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Tensions have been high for months between Nieto and Trump, largely due to Trump's repeated insistence that Mexico will pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border -- a prospect that Nieto has repeatedly rejected.

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Last month, Nieto called off a planned trip to the White House to meet with Trump after Trump again pressed during a phone call that Mexico pay for the wall.

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Then, new tensions flared this week when Trump said renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement -- a long-standing trade pact between Mexico, the United States and Canada -- is the only way to avert planned tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.

Mexico and Canada both rejected Trump's proposal to overhaul NAFTA, vowing an economic retaliation if the new tariffs are imposed. Trump will meet with steel and aluminum officials at the White House Thursday afternoon, when the tariffs could be formally announced.

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