The US president, Joe Biden , and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador , held a first cordial meeting this Monday in which both opted to interact on an equal footing , after four years of ups and downs in bilateral ties, according to EFE.
“We see Mexico as an equal, not as someone who is south of our border.” With that phrase, Biden set the tone for his first virtual meeting with López Obrador, a president who especially values respect for Mexican sovereignty.
“RESPECT AND EQUALITY”
Not surprisingly, the Mexican president thanked Biden for being willing to relate to his country on the basis of “respect and equality”, and recalled a famous phrase from the former president of his country Porfirio Díaz, who said: “poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States. ”
“Now I can say that it is wonderful for Mexico to be close to God and not so far from the United States,” added López Obrador, whom Biden watched from the White House through a screen , due to the pandemic.
Those brief statements by both at the beginning of the meeting made clear their common desire to strengthen ties so that they “become even better” in the future, in the words of López Obrador, who hoped to maintain a “constant dialogue” with Biden.
The virtual meeting marked a contrast with two other meetings: the one that Biden had last week with his other neighbor on the continent, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the one that López Obrador shared last July with former US President Donald Trump in the White House.
THREE VERY DIFFERENT MEETINGS
The personal harmony was clearly superior in those two appointments: Trudeau, who maintained a notoriously tense relationship with Trump, made clear his relief at the return of “United States leadership” from the hand of Biden, in a statement at the end of the meeting that the White House did not program in the López Obrador case.
The brief virtual meeting also paled in comparison to the extensive program that Trump dedicated last year to López Obrador, who was full of praise for the then US president, despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric and his pressure and threats of tariffs on Mexico.
And beyond the forms, both Biden and López Obrador gave signs of wanting to advance the relationship in a pragmatic way, especially on immigration , where there is more agreement: the Mexican leader has applauded that the American stops the construction of the border wall and the “Stay in Mexico” program.
TUNE IN TO MIGRATION
In a joint written statement, Biden and López Obrador pledged to promote “immigration policies that recognize the dignity of migrants and the imperative of orderly, safe and regular migration.”
They agreed to work together and with the governments of the Northern Triangle of Central America to “address the root causes of regional migration , improve migration management and develop legal pathways for migration,” according to the statement, distributed by the White House and the Mexican Chancellery.
The statement did not mention López Obrador’s plan to propose to Biden an agreement so that Mexican workers can migrate to the United States legally, based on the Bracero Program launched during World War II to compensate for the deficit in American labor.
The White House has not ruled on this issue, but it is difficult to make it a priority, since it is now immersed in a battle to pass an immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who live in U.S.
Biden wanted to make it clear that he appreciates the Hispanic population of his country, of which “60% are Mexican-Americans, and they are an integral part of the history” of the nation, he stressed before López Obrador.
PANDEMIC AND VACCINES
The Mexican president planned to ask Biden that the United States share part of the supply of covid-19 vaccines with Mexico , and the American leader said he planned to discuss that issue with López Obrador.
However, Biden’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said before the meeting that the White House had no intention of sharing its vaccine supply in the short term, at least until it ensures they are enough to immunize all Americans.
However, the two leaders committed to “close collaboration” in the fight against the pandemic, especially in terms of “information exchange and border policy development,” according to the joint statement.
SILENCE ON THE ELECTRICAL REFORM
Although they reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada (T-MEC), they did not publicly mention the Mexican electricity reform, which worries Washington because it benefits the state company to the detriment of private generators, especially foreign and of renewables.
Biden and López Obrador decided to restart the High Level Economic Dialogue interrupted during the Trump era, and agreed to “explore areas of cooperation” in the fight against the climate crisis.
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The format of the meeting, through screens installed in their respective offices, did not lend itself to large warm gestures, but Biden wanted to show that he knew Mexico well, a country that he visited four times when he was vice president (2009-2017).
“I even paid my respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe,” recalled Biden, who showed López Obrador the rosary beads his son Beau wore when he died of brain cancer in 2015.