Biden, López Obrador and Trudeau meet in Mexico City for summit

Mexico City – President Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet for a series of talks migrationTrade and climate change on Tuesday as the three leaders seek to ease tensions that have divided the continent.

The three-way meeting takes place most years, although there was a hiatus while Donald Trump was US President. It is often referred to as the “Summit of the Three Amigos”, in reference to the deep diplomatic and economic ties between the countries.

But leaders were still at odds, particularly as they struggle to cope with an influx of migrants and crack down on smugglers who profit from convincing people to make the perilous journey to the United States.

In addition, Canada and the US accuse López Obrador of violating a free trade agreement by favoring Mexico’s state-owned utilities over power plants built by foreign and private investors. Meanwhile, Trudeau and López Obrador are concerned about Biden’s efforts to boost domestic manufacturing, raising concerns its US neighbors could be left behind.

The key takeaways from the summit revolve around better connections between the three nations and the shared goal of a stronger North America on energy and more specifically semiconductorClimate and a pledge to reduce methane emissions, an agreement to manage large migrant flows into the region, and a more coherent regional strategy to deal with future pandemic-related health threats.

The heart of the summit will be hours of talks with all three leaders, but Mr Biden kicked off Tuesday with a meeting with Trudeau where the two leaders announced “joint efforts to advance economic competitiveness and inclusive growth, to fulfill… ambitious climate commitments and to strengthen “security and defense cooperation and addressing regional and global challenges,” the White House said. It was decidedly less contentious than Mr. Biden’s sit-down with López Obrador on Monday.

President Biden meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Mexico City on January 10, 2023 during the North American Leaders Summit.

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

During that meeting, Mexico’s leader urged Mr. Biden to improve life across the region, telling him that “you hold the key in your hand.”

“This is the moment when we resolve to eliminate this abandonment, this contempt and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Lopez Obrador said.

Mr. Biden responded by noting the billions of dollars the United States is spending on foreign aid around the world, saying that “unfortunately, our responsibilities just don’t end in the Western Hemisphere.”

It was a noticeably heated exchange of blows after the two leaders smiled and hugged and shook hands for the cameras.

Mr. Biden and López Obrador have not had a particularly good relationship over the past two years. The Mexican leader has made no secret of his admiration for Trump, and for the past year he has skipped an America Summit in Los Angeles because Mr. Biden did not invite the authoritarian regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

However, there have been attempts to unfreeze the relationship. Mr. Biden made a point of flying into the new Felipe Angeles International Airport, a valuable Mexican presidential project, although it has been a source of controversy.

The airport, which is expected to cost $4.1 billion when completed, is more than an hour’s drive north of downtown, has few flights and, until recently, lacked consistent drinking water. However, it is one of the key projects that López Obrador hopes to complete before the end of his tenure next year.

The U.S. and Mexico have also agreed on a sea change in migration policies that Mr. Biden announced last week.

Under the plan, the US will send 30,000 migrants a month back across the border from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela, among those who entered the US illegally. Migrants arriving from these four countries are not easily returned to their home countries for various reasons.

In addition, 30,000 people per month from these four nations, who receive sponsorships, background checks and a flight to the United States, will be given the opportunity to legally work in the country for two years.

On Monday, before the summit began, López Obrador said he would consider taking in more migrants than previously announced.

“We don’t want to prejudge anything, but that’s part of what we’re going to talk about at the summit,” said López Obrador. “We support this type of action to give people options and alternatives,” he said, adding that “the number could be increased.”

Mexico would likely require an increase in the number of those allowed to work in the US to accommodate more migrants being deported.

Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s national security adviser, warned that nothing was decided yet.

“What we need is to see how the program announced last week works in practice, what if adjustments need to be made to that program, and then we can talk about next steps,” he said.

The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has increased dramatically in Mr. Biden’s first two years in office. In the year ended September 30, there were more than 2.38 million stops, the first time the number surpassed 2 million.

Mr. Biden is expected to follow his first trip to Mexico as President with another to Canada, although this is not yet planned.

A senior Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Canada is working with Americans on a visit in the near future. Biden, López Obrador and Trudeau meet in Mexico City for summit

Rick Schindler

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