By CANDACE SMITH, MORGAN WINSOR, MEGHAN KENEALLY — ABC News
Aug 31, 2016, 4:27 PM ET
Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto appeared together after meeting privately in the Presidential Palace this afternoon.
Trump arrived in Mexico City this afternoon and took the podium for a joint press conference alongside Peña Nieto, praising Mexican Americans while noting the “tremendous feeling” he has for Mexican-Americans.
Peña Nieto spoke first, praising the democratic process and saying that Mexico will be a good neighbor to the United States and work together as “strategic allies.”
“We must always be open to talk about what has worked and what hasn’t,” Peña Nieto said, in Spanish. He said that the countries’ will have a “relationship based on mutual respect” and later told how, during their private meeting, Peña Nieto said that he would stand by Mexicans “wherever they are.”
“We may not be in agreement on a number of subjects,” Peña Nieto said of he and Trump, but said that their countries are important to one another. He said that the purpose of their meeting was to meet each other and to talk about their views. Peña Nieto called their meeting “very open and constructive.”
The Mexican president said that he wants to make the border “more efficient and more secure” with the next president, and said that strengthening the border was as important to Mexico.
Trump then gave his own remarks, in English, saying that they had a “substantive, direct” meeting.
“I was straightforward in presenting my views,” Trump said, noting later that “We are united by our support of Mexicans.”
“I have a tremendous feeling for Mexican Americans not only in terms of friendship but also in terms of the numbers I employ… I am proud to say how many people I employ,” Trump said.
He did maintain that protecting the borders of a country is “a sovereign right,” effectively maintaining the right to implement the plan to build a wall along the southern border of the United States.
Trump announced his intentions to visit Mexico on Tuesday night, via social media. “I have accepted the invitation of President Enrique Peña Nieto, of Mexico, and look very much forward to meeting him tomorrow,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, denied that the trip was as last minute as it seemed. The invitation from Peña Nieto first came late last week; the Mexican president invited both Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“Well, maybe it’s been revealed publicly last minute, but the fact is that Mr. Trump was very excited to accept the invitation from the president in Mexico. It’s a decisive presidential move. He wants to establish a conversation with a neighboring country, a leader. And also to discuss the common problems and challenges that our country is facing,” Conway said during an interview with NBC.
She said that today’s Trump would be “very presidential.”
“I think they’ll have a productive conversation today … illegal immigration, but also trade policy and drugs,” Conway said.
During a town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week, Trump was asked about Peña Nieto’s recent comments that he would meet with the next U.S. president, regardless of who it is.
“I’d meet with him,” Trump said of Peña Nieto. “Absolutely, I’d meet with him.”
Peña Nieto had said of the Republican presidential nominee, “I have never met him. I can’t agree with some of the things he has said, but I will be absolutely respectful and will seek to work with whoever becomes the next president of the United States.”
Peña Nieto said in March that he would not pay for a border wall under any circumstances.
This trip comes as Trump is scheduled to speak on immigration later this evening in Phoenix, joined by his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence. His policies on immigration, what’s become his trademark issue, have become murky in recent weeks, with Trump indicating that he may not deport all undocumented immigrants as he once suggested.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
ABC News’ John Santucci and David Caplan contributed to this report.
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