Mexico is preparing for a long "battle" with the administration of President Trump, its foreign minister reportedly told lawmakers in private comments, adding that the country was prepared to retaliate with new tariffs if necessary.
"We are here preparing for a battle that is going to be long," Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray told federal deputies Wednesday, according to the newspaper La Jornada, which said it had obtained a copy of the comments. "This is not going to be resolved in three days."
In the reported remarks, Videgaray said Mexico was prepared to retaliate with new tariffs on U.S.-made goods should the Trump administration follow up on its threats to slap an export tax of 20% or more of goods imported from Mexico to the United States.
There was no official response from the Mexican Foreign Ministry on Videgaray's reported remarks.
Videgaray was among the Mexican officials, including President Enrique Peña Nieto, who were to meet this week with a pair of visiting White House Cabinet members, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. The private remarks were apparently made on Wednesday, when the two Trump envoys were scheduled to arrive in Mexico City.
In public comments Wednesday, Videgaray said Mexico would reject any "unilateral" actions, and pushed back against a planned U.S. immigration crackdown. But the foreign secretary's public observations were generally in line with the restrained tone from officials in Mexico City to what many here view as a hostile administration in Washington.
In the reported private comments, however, the foreign secretary revealed the extent to which the Trump presidency — with its calls for a border wall — has perturbed Mexico's leadership. But Videgaray also said that time was on Mexico's side.
"Time has been wearing down President Donald Trump," Videgaray reportedly said. "He has had missteps that are placing him against the weight of reality."
Trump is also recognizing that the position of U.S. president is not "omnipotent," the Mexican foreign secretary reportedly said.
On the question of tariffs, according to La Jornada, Videgaray said, "If they place a tax on Mexican exports, we are going to put one on theirs. But better, because we are going to choose which ones hurt."
Mexico's economy is heavily dependent on trade with the United States, source of about 80% of Mexico's exports. The possibility of new tariffs on Mexican exports has sent shock waves through Mexico's already shaky economy.
The foreign minister warned that Mexico cold not allow the manufacturing sector to be "frozen" too long, amid the current uncertainly about U.S.-Mexico trade. "There is a reality: We don't want to create a climate of dissuading investment in Mexico," Vigedaray reportedly said.
In the reported comments, Videgaray stressed that Mexico did not seek a row with its powerful northern neighbor. "To the whole world, it is clear that the Mexican government did not begin with a logic of confrontation," he said.
Videgaray, who is close to Peña Nieto, also reportedly told the Mexican lawmakers: "You know as well as I that we are not going to change Donald Trump's way of thinking, we are not going to convince him, and he is going to continue being president for a long time. But we have to recognize that, yes, we have strategic advantages and strengths in this process of dialogue and eventual negotiation."