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Trump calling for 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico to pay for border wall

White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks to reporters on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017, from Philadelphia. Spicer says that taxing imports from Mexico would generate $10 billions a year and "easily pay for the wall." (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to pay for his proposed southern border wall by slapping a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer says Trump has discussed the idea with congressional leaders and wants to include the measure in a comprehensive tax reform package.

He addressed lawmakers shortly after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a trip to Washington next week for his first meeting with the new president due to their disagreement over which of their countries would pay to build Trump’s promised wall on the border between them.

The wall is part of Trump’s plan to halt illegal immigration to the U.S., and he has long insisted that Mexico will pay. Pena Nieto insists his country will not.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada said in a tweet Thursday the 20 percent tax on Mexican imports will not generate any income for the U.S. because Mexico will import the same tax on American imports, forcing taxpayers to pay both for the wall and import taxes.

Spicer spoke to reporters on Air Force One as Trump flew back from a Republican retreat in Philadelphia. He says that taxing imports from Mexico would generate $10 billion a year and “easily pay for the wall.”

Spicer says discussions are continuing with lawmakers to make sure the plan is “done right.” But he says it “clearly provides funding” for the wall.

Earlier Thursday, GOP leaders had said Congress would pay up to $15 billion to build the wall.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said during a GOP strategy retreat in Philadelphia that legislation will put up $12 billion to $15 billion for constructing the wall.

Congress will pay for “the construction of the physical barrier on the border,” Ryan said.

McConnell added, “We intend to address the wall issue ourselves.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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