Migration issues overshadowed Biden’s trip to the 3 Amigos summit. Joe Biden’s first trip as vice president to Mexico won’t be short on topics to discuss.
There was a dramatic change in border policy that occurred just days before the vacation. U.S. authorities have finally captured a wanted drug lord in Mexico. When he stopped in El Paso, Texas, Biden also made his first trip to the border on Sunday night.
Even though the president arrived in Mexico City hours after his swing through El Paso, all of that casts a shadow over him. Biden has a jam-packed agenda for Monday and Tuesday at the North American Leaders Summit. We had several opportunities for one-on-one conversations, trilateral meetings, productive lunches and dinners, and photographs.
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The climate crisis, economic growth, and other topics heavily affect our extensive agenda. However, Biden stressed the importance of border security during his speech on Thursday at the White House.
Biden’s trip to Mexico will be the first by a sitting U.S. president since Obama’s in 2014. For decades, it had been customary for the president to visit Mexico or Canada on his or her first trip abroad. The “Three Amigos” frequently made statements promising a (mostly) united front from North America. In 2017, President Trump broke with the informal tradition by choosing Saudi Arabia as his first international destination. Biden’s first international trip was scheduled for March 2021, but he postponed it until June 2021 to attend a meeting of the G-7 in the United Kingdom while the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the world.
Since then, Vice President Biden has traveled extensively for international summits worldwide. He had not yet ventured south of the border, however. Latin Americans already feel ignored by the United States because Vice President Joe Biden has spent more time with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau than Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
This has increased the stakes for this week’s long-awaited meeting, where the three leaders will debate crucial topics, including border security, trade and economic development, environment, and energy.
The Biden administration introduced new measures last week to reduce illegal migration; some of these measures depend on Mexico’s cooperation. Fentanyl and other lab-produced synthetic opioids now fuel an overdose epidemic deadlier than any the United States has ever seen. Therefore, the president will prioritize immigration and stemming the flow of fentanyl from Mexico. As a result, Biden may feel compelled to confront the issue, even though advocates and experts on drug control have said that a drug policy predicated on increased border security has a meager chance of success.
By apprehending Mr. [Ovidio] Guzmán, a major fentanyl trafficker, Mexico has taken a significant step in the right direction. The success of the Mexican government in that regard is not trivial. A White House spokesman for the National Security Council said as much on Friday, and we couldn’t be more appreciative: John Kirby. So, “we will continue working with them in lockstep to see what we can do collectively to try to restrict that flow.”
There are additional concerns of comparable importance that need to be addressed by the leaders. The Canadian and American governments have voiced their displeasure with Mexico’s energy policies, which they claim unfairly target foreign investment in the fossil fuel and renewable energy industries. Canada and the United States may soon seek a dispute settlement tribunal to hear their complaint after months of trying to negotiate a settlement among themselves.
Biden’s former border czar and Obama’s ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, have indicated that competition and trade may be the most significant concerns on the table. Biden and Trudeau’s trip to Mexico comes amid rising trade tensions between the United States, Canada, and Mexico over the production and sale of automobiles, energy, and agricultural products.
Both Canada and Mexico have accused the United States of adopting an unnecessarily stringent interpretation of the automotive trade regulations in the two-year-old USMCA deal, making it more difficult for vehicles manufactured in either country to qualify for duty-free treatment in the United States.
In the days after the meeting, a dispute settlement tribunal is likely to announce a verdict in favor of Canada and Mexico, raising doubts about whether or not the Biden administration will relax its rigid interpretation to comply with the order. If it doesn’t, Canada and Mexico may retaliate next year.
Conflicts persist beyond that point. The United States continues to be irritated by Canadian restrictions on access to its dairy market. In contrast, Canada continues to protest about U.S. levies on softwood timber shipments, which the United States claims are priced and subsidized unjustly. In addition, groups representing American farmers and lawmakers have demanded that the Biden administration initiate dispute settlement proceedings against Mexico over a directive issued by López Obrador in 2020 that might end U.S. grain exports to the country.
The dynamics between the leaders will also be scrutinized. Jacobson claims that while Biden and Trudeau share common ground frequently, the relationship between the United States and Mexico is more fraught. Furthermore, López Obrador often uses press conferences to make rhetorical attacks against the United States.
Since the United States did not invite the authoritarian nations of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this summer, the Mexican president did not go. That enraged the other countries in the region, so López Obrador didn’t attend the summit and sent his foreign minister instead. The leaders of Belize and Argentina, among others, boycotted the meeting, while those who did attend criticized Vice President Biden for unfairly singling out their countries.
This rocky beginning to hemispheric relations has come to define, in part, the Biden approach: slow but steady improvement with no catastrophic blunders. The administration was relieved to leave with some trade and refugee accords, not a complete disaster.
Ultimately, for the good of the American people and our economic prosperity, rising above that noise to try to maintain a productive relationship is essential, and Vice President Biden understands this, Jacobson said. “It’s vital that he takes that step.”