Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner part of delegation to meet Mexico's President

Senior advisor and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, boards Air Force One to Nashville, Tennessee from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, on Jan 8, 2018.
Senior advisor and son-in-law of US President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, boards Air Force One to Nashville, Tennessee from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US, on Jan 8, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner will visit Mexico on Wednesday (March 7) to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto to discuss security, immigration, and trade, according to a senior administration official.

Mr Kushner will be joined by staff from the State Department and the National Security Council and is also expected to meet with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray according to the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the planned meetings. The Mexican government also announced the meetings would occur.

The visit by Mr Kushner comes the week after the US and Mexico scrapped preliminary plans for Mr Pena Nieto and President Donald Trump to meet at the White House this week, according to two officials familiar with the planning.

The officials would not confirm a Washington Post report that the visit was called off because Mr Trump, in a phone call with Mr Pena Nieto on Feb 20, would not agree to publicly acknowledge that Mexico will not pay for his proposed wall on the southern border.

Mr Pena Nieto, who leaves office in December, still hopes the meeting will take place at some point, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the private planning.

Both the White House and Mr Pena Nieto's office on Feb 20 said the leaders had spoken by phone, with Mr Trump offering condolences to the families of victims of a helicopter crash in Oaxaca and Mr Pena Nieto expressing solidarity and support following the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Feb 14. The American statement said Mr Trump reiterated a commitment to expanding ties on security, trade and immigration, and it made no mention of the wall or Mr Pena Nieto's upcoming visit.

The relationship between Mexico and the US was further strained by Mr Trump's decision last week to announce new tariffs on aluminum and steel as negotiators worked in Mexico City to discuss revisions to the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said his country was ready to hit the US with retaliatory tariffs after Mr Trump's decision.

"We would have to target our response at the things they export that are most politically sensitive and hit exactly those goods. We have the ability to respond," he told Mexican broadcaster Televisa.

The White House has said it could exempt Mexico and Canada from the levies if they agree to a new version of Nafta.

"The president's view was that it makes sense that if we get a successful agreement, to have them be excluded," US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told reporters in Mexico City following the seventh round of Nafta talks on Monday (March 5).

"It's an incentive to get a deal."

Mr Kushner's travel to Mexico also marks his second meeting with a world leader after his access to top secret materials was restricted following a White House crackdown on interim security clearances.

Last week, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly moved to restrict the access of West Wing staffers operating under prolonged interim clearances to classified material. That decision, made after allegations surfaced that former Staff Secretary Rob Porter had abused his two ex-wives, means that Mr Kushner has been cut off from some top-level briefing materials and meetings.

Mr Kelly has said he retained "full confidence" in Mr Kushner's ability to perform his duties, and both White House spokesmen and Kushner lawyers have insisted the downgrade would not affect his ability to do his job. Mr Kushner's expansive portfolio includes a number of foreign policy items, including brokering a Middle East peace agreement and involvement in trade discussions with Mexico.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Kushner's role "wasn't impacted" in meetings this week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated he would be able to continue his work in the administration.