MEXICO. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, who host them, said Tuesday they have made significant progress in strengthening cooperation on trade, migration, security, climate change and stabilizing Haiti.
After the meeting of the three leaders, Biden said: “In today’s interconnected world, we cannot wall ourselves off from common problems. We are stronger and better when we work together, the three of us, and together we have made tremendous progress.”
Faced with a massive influx of migrants, the leaders also announced on Tuesday a virtual platform “to provide migrants with easier access to legal pathways. This will give potential migrants the information they need to legally enter Mexico, the United States and Canada, making them less likely to rely on smugglers,” the White House said in a statement.
Biden said the record number of migrants is straining communities in Mexico and the United States. “We are working together to solve this problem while respecting the laws of our country and protecting the human rights of migrants who find themselves in a desperate situation,” he said.
In a joint press conference following the conclusion of the summit, Trudeau said: “People remember what happened just a few years ago when the credibility of this partnership was called into question. Investors, businesses, workers and citizens are worried about what will happen when free trade is threatened. This is bad for competition in the global market.”
López Obrador thanked Trudeau for “his extraordinary and brotherly program of providing temporary work visas” to 25,000 Mexican guest workers. He looked at Biden and said that he was “the first president of the United States in a very long time who did not build a single meter [border] wall. And we thank you for that, sir… Although the conservatives may not like it.
The three leaders discussed how to strengthen cooperation to “cut off the flow of illegal fentanyl … while we go after the labs where it is made and the caches where it is stored,” Biden said.
They also “talked about fulfilling our commitment to making North America a clean energy hub,” which includes initiatives to “shape zero-emission vehicles, build electric vehicle charging stations that are compatible with our international borders,” Biden said.
Analysts say the summit, dubbed the “three friends”, requires confidence-building. Although these face-to-face meetings seem ceremonial, they are important in solving problems that threaten the prosperity of the region.
The Importance of Trade
Trade is essential for this prosperity. That’s why business leaders and analysts in Texas and along the US-Mexico border are paying special attention to the summit.
“Trade benefits the three countries. [and] our regions, especially Texas, which is considered one of the most important business-supporting states,” said Gerald “Jerry” Schwebel, corporate vice president of Laredo-based IBC Bank and member of the US-Mexico Economic Council. During the summit, the council met with other business leaders from Mexico and Canada.
“We are facing a lot of problems at the border and all we hear is negativity,” he said. “But the fact is that Mexico is still our No. 1 trading partner.” Of the $1.3 trillion in North American trade, “Texas alone accounts for $231 billion. Our 28 Texas ports of entry along the border handle much of that trade,” he said.
“Texas has a sound trade policy with Mexico at stake, so it’s important to be direct to solve our problems… The bottom line: these trade agreements are designed to drive economic growth, and if we don’t grow, we die,” he said.
“Now is a critical time for all of us, especially in Texas, to realize that we have a great opportunity to bring manufacturing jobs back to North America, to our state, and to the Texas-Mexico border.”
In Dallas, Enrique Marroquin, vice president of Grupo Zaro, a trucking company that exports everything from tequila to wine, said the summit was a sign that the three countries are “fighting real enemies” with a focus on strengthening supply chains. outside of Asia.
“Texas is ready to reap the lion’s share of the benefits,” he said. “The question remains: what role should Texans play in the private and public sectors in order to monetize and exploit the windfall from what promises to be a fruitful and collaborative relationship?”
On Sunday, Biden spent four hours in El Paso before heading to Mexico City. In El Paso, he visited customs facilities and the city’s busiest border crossing.
Trade leaders hope Biden’s visit will signal the importance of “the U.S.-Mexico border, which gives companies the opportunity to access the best of both countries by organizing their operations on both sides,” said Jerry Pacheco, president of the Industrial Frontiers Association in Santa Klaus. Teresa, New Mexico, across the Texas border.
“That’s why we’re already seeing companies from places like Taiwan and China come to the border to set up their manufacturing operations,” Pacheco said.
“Rejection” and “Disregard”
At their bilateral meeting on Monday, López Obrador urged Biden to help improve the lives of millions across the region, pointedly reminding him: “You hold the key in your hands… This is the moment we must decide to end this rejection, this contempt and this oblivion for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Unfortunately, our responsibility is not limited to the Western Hemisphere,” Biden later replied, reminding López Obrador that the United States spends billions of dollars on foreign aid around the world.
According to Julian Ventura, Mexico’s former deputy foreign minister, the themes of “abandonment” and “contempt” for López Obrador were recurring. “The realities of Latin American influence—far different from Mexican integration into North America—make our president’s statement fundamentally inspiring,” he said.
Ventura, senior adviser at Albright Stonebridge Group, added: “However, Central America could be an area of opportunity for joint development and economic cooperation.”
North American leaders are at odds, especially as they struggle to deal with an influx of migrants and crack down on smugglers who cash in on persuading people to make the dangerous trip to the United States.
In addition, Canada and the US accuse López Obrador of violating the free trade pact by favoring Mexico’s state-owned utility company over power plants built by foreign and private investors. Meanwhile, Trudeau and Lopez Obrador are worried about Biden’s domestic manufacturing efforts, raising fears that US neighbors could be left behind.
The US and Mexico have also reached an agreement on a major immigration policy change that Biden announced last week.
Under the plan, the US will send back 30,000 migrants a month across the border from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela from among those who entered the US illegally. Migrants from these four countries are not easily repatriated for a variety of reasons.
In addition, 30,000 people per month from these four countries who receive sponsorships, background checks and air travel to the US will be able to legally work in the country for two years.
On Monday, ahead of the summit, López Obrador said he would consider accepting more migrants than previously announced.
“We don’t want to prejudge things, but that’s part of what we’ll be talking about at the summit,” Lopez Obrador said. “We support such measures to give people a choice, an alternative,” he said, adding that “the number can be increased.”
Mexico is likely to require an increase in the number of those who receive work permits in the United States in order to accept more expelled migrants.
The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has skyrocketed in Biden’s first two years in office. During the year ending September 30, there were over 2.38 million stops, the first time that the number exceeded 2 million.
USA and Canada
On Tuesday, Biden and Trudeau discussed their countries’ efforts to support Ukraine, nearly 11 months after Russia’s invasion.
Canada announced on Tuesday that it will buy the US National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS, which will be donated to Ukraine.
The White House statement said the leaders also discussed “a generational opportunity to strengthen supply chains for critical minerals, electric vehicles and semiconductors.” The US administration also announced that Biden would make his first visit to Canada as president in March.
Biden said he and Trudeau will discuss “how we can try to help stabilize Haiti.” Canada is considering leading an international mission to Haiti to help resolve an ongoing humanitarian and security crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.