Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on March 1 met his US counterpart Joe Biden at a virtual summit to discuss immigration, Covid-19 and commercial issues.
Biden opened talks by reminding Lopez Obrador, known as “AMLO”, of his four visits to Mexico as vice-president of the country’s northern neighbour.
Biden told AMLO that Mexico’s success was crucial to the hemisphere and stressed that he would view the country as an equal.
“The United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together,” Biden said at the beginning of their teleconference.
But “we haven’t been perfect neighbours to each other”, he admitted.
During the Obama-Biden administration, he continued, “we looked at Mexico as an equal. You are equal”.
“What you do in Mexico and how you succeed” affects the rest of the hemisphere, Biden said.
It was Biden’s second bilateral meeting with a foreign leader since becoming president on January 20. The first was with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
The talks came after four years of tumultuous Mexico-US relations under former US president Donald Trump, who shut down the southern international border to migration, tore up the NAFTA trade agreement between Mexico, Canada and the US, and labelled Mexican immigrants drug traffickers and “rapists”.
Still, the flow of migrants and trade – legal and illegal – across the Mexican-US border was to be the focus of the summit.
Joining the call, were top diplomatic, security and immigration officials from both sides.
‘A joint approach’
The meeting came amid reports of a new surge of undocumented migrants attempting to enter the US from Mexico and its southern neighbours, as Biden eases Trump’s tough anti-immigration regime.
The summit also was to address joint development efforts in impoverished southern Mexico and Central America, the source of most of the migrants; Covid-19 recovery and economic cooperation.
Speaking in the north-central state of Zacatecas on February 27, AMLO said he would also emphasise how important migrant labour is to the US economy.
The two countries share a porous, nearly 3,200km border, with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of commerce annually and large numbers of daily legal crossings by individuals.
But it also sees a huge level of illegal migrant crossing, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers trying to enter the US and large amounts of illicit drug trafficking from south to north.
Andrew Rudman, a Mexico specialist at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington, said ahead of the meeting: “Security cooperation remains essential if we wish to address drug abuse, corruption and organised crime which impact both nations.
“Migration, which is also impacted by organised crime, also demands a joint approach.”
One issue expected to be discussed was Mexico’s need for more coronavirus vaccines.