WASHINGTON. A month after President Biden was snubbed by refusing to attend Mr. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador joined the summit to showcase American leadership. Biden is at the White House on Tuesday to bolster the relationship the United States needs to slow mass migration and strengthen economic ties.
Prominence Mr. The mere presence of Lopez Obrador next to Mr. Biden underlined how uncomfortable the already difficult relationship between the United States and Mexico has become. mr. Lopez Obrador missed meeting with Mr. Biden’s summit in America last month after criticizing the United States for not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. He also challenged the United States on energy policy, drug control and prosecution of Julian Assange.
The two leaders were keen to reaffirm the partnership they believed was needed to fight global inflation amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, migration and a surge in fentanyl trafficking. But Mr. López Obrador seemed to indicate that tensions still exist between administrations.
The Mexican president, who rarely misses an opportunity to poke fun at the Biden administration, at one point mentioned how Americans living along the border moved to Mexico for lower gas prices amid soaring inflation.
“Despite our differences, and also despite our grievances, which are not easy to forget with time or good wishes,” said Mr. Lopez Obrador said that many times “we managed to match and we could work together as good friends and real allies.
In a roughly 30 minute reply, Mr. Biden Letter Opening Statement, Mr. Lopez Obrador sometimes seemed to be lecturing on history rather than political frameworks, referring to the partnership between the two countries under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies.
“We had circumstances very similar to our current circumstances,” he said. “And we should learn good lessons from this policy.”
mr. López Obrador also touched on one of Biden’s biggest political vulnerabilities: high gas prices. After the count, Mr. Biden hoped that “Congress would approve or pass” proposals to lower gas prices. Biden countered, “It’s been down for 30 consecutive days.”
The Mexican president also noted that Americans were crossing the border to buy gas, saying it was cheaper by a dollar. He did not point out that gas is cheaper in Mexico because the government subsidizes domestic gas prices with the money it makes from the crude oil it produces.
mr. Biden aides insist the relationship between the two leaders is productive. Although he did not visit the city. At the Biden summit in June, Mexico did support the declaration adopted during the meeting, which spoke of cooperation in expanding legal routes for foreign workers, investing in border security, combating smuggling networks and solving the problem record high levels of illegal migration.
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“We see Mexico as an equal partner,” he said. Biden said Tuesday in a speech that lasted just under 10 minutes, noting the need to strengthen the economy and approach northward migration “as a shared hemispheric problem.”
Throughout his presidency, Mr. Biden has stressed the need to work with Mexico and Central America to address the root causes of migration and containing the surge in illegal border crossings is a humanitarian crisis that has challenged his White House. In recent years, the majority of migrants crossing the border have been Mexicans, a change from much of the Obama and Trump administrations, when Central Americans entered the United States in record numbers.
Mexico has agreed to buy up to 20,000 tons of powdered milk from the US to help families in rural and urban communities, as well as one million tons of American fertilizer, according to a National Security Council statement. mr. Biden also credited Mr. López Obrador “for his active work” in organizing shows for Central American migrants to work in Mexico.
mr. Biden added that both the United States and Mexico would invest in upgraded infrastructure along the border. Countries are working to improve technology along port entrances to better detect drugs, as well as surveillance towers and sensors to help border guards track illegal crossings, a senior administration official said. While the Trump administration has invested billions of dollars building hundreds of miles of physical border wall, Mr. Biden has campaigned to invest in technology to prevent such crossings.
White House allotted on Tuesday that Mexico will invest $1.5 billion in infrastructure along the border, marking former President Donald Trump’s unfulfilled promise to make Mexico pay for the wall. But the Biden administration did not specify which projects Mexico would fund.
mr. Biden, noting death of 51 migrants who were found locked in an abandoned truck in San Antonio also said both countries needed to intercept smugglers encouraging migrants to cross the border. The administration, along with other countries, has launched an anti-smuggling initiative that has resulted in about 3,000 arrests since April, he said.
“We need all the countries in the region to join us,” he said. Biden said.
mr. López Obrador cited expanding temporary exhibitions of work for Mexicans and Central Americans as one of the most effective ways to encourage legal immigration. During last month’s summit, Mexico pledged to provide temporary work for at least 15,000 Guatemalans, while the United States said it would provide $65 million in grants to agricultural employers who hire Central American farmers.
Andrew Sely, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a research institute in Washington, praised the effort but said implementation would likely take time.
“This is happening slowly because they need employers to be willing to hire in Central America and they need to simplify the visa process,” he said.
mr. Sely said the two leaders were likely more focused on resolving migration and economic issues affecting both their countries than Mr Trump’s. Absence of Lopez Obrador at the summit.
In a way, Mr. Lopez Obrador’s relationship with Mr. Biden is more complicated than the one he had with former President Donald J. Trump, who threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico before ultimately making the country an important ally for his border policy.
Despite Mr. López Obrador’s efforts to defend himself as an advocate for migrants, he also agreed to abide by US policy that gave US border officials the power to quickly return migrants back to Mexico. In return, Mr. Trump has largely refrained from pressuring him on domestic issues.
mr. Biden has returned to a broader approach in which the United States pursues the national interest while also emphasizing the need to fight corruption and ensure the protection of human rights. However, he also relies on Mexico to curb migration, which gives Mr. López Obrador considerable leverage. For much of this year, the administration has continued to rely on Trump-era restrictive policies that depend on cooperation with Mexico.
Tensions between governments have existed since Mr. Biden was elected when Mr. Lopez Obrador initially refused to acknowledge his victory. The Mexican president is also pursuing energy policies that threaten US investment in the sector, prompting the Office of the US Trade Representative to express “grave concern in March about the deteriorating trajectory of Mexico’s energy policy.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Lopez Obrador has continued to lash out at the administration, criticizing the US government for bringing charges of espionage against Mr. Lopez. Assange. British government approved Mr. Assange’s extradition to the US last month.
mr. López Obrador has vowed to “start a campaign to take down the Statue of Liberty” if Mr. Assange is sentenced to capital punishment in the US.
“There should be no selfishness between countries, peoples who are neighbors and friends. Lopez Obrador said at the end of his speech. “President Biden,” he added, “we trust you because you respect our sovereignty.”
mr. Biden responded by noting that his colleague has “a lot of important things to say.”
“We agree with the gist of what you are saying,” he said. “We need to work closer together.”
Natalie Kitroeva provided a report from Mexico City.