MEXICO CITY (AP) – United States (US) President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are meeting for a series of talks on migration, trade and climate change today as the three leaders try to mend tensions that have divided the continent.
The three-way gathering is held most years, although there was a hiatus while Donald Trump was US president. It’s often called the “three amigos summit”, a reference to the deep diplomatic and economic ties between the countries.
However, the leaders still found themselves at odds, especially as they struggle to handle an influx of migrants and to crack down on smugglers who profit from persuading people to make the dangerous trip to the US.
In addition, Canada and the US accuse López Obrador of violating a free trade pact by favouring Mexico’s state-owned utility over power plants built by foreign and private investors. Meanwhile, Trudeau and López Obrador are concerned about Biden’s efforts to boost domestic manufacturing, creating concerns that US neighbours could be left behind.
The centrepiece of the summit will be hours of talks with all three leaders, but Biden started yesterday with a bilateral meeting with Trudeau. It’s unlikely to be as contentious as his sit-down with López Obrador on Monday.
During that meeting, the Mexican leader challenged Biden to improve life across the region, telling him that “you hold the key in your hand”.
“This is the moment for us to determine to do away with this abandonment, this disdain, and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Lopez Obrador said.
Biden responded by pointing to the billions of dollars that the US spends in foreign aid around the world, saying that “unfortunately our responsibility just doesn’t end in the Western Hemisphere”.
It was a noticeably sharp exchange after the two leaders had smiled and embraced and shaken hands for the cameras.
Biden and López Obrador haven’t been on particularly good terms for the past two years.
The Mexican leader made no secret of his admiration for Trump, and last year he skipped a Los Angeles summit of the Americas because Biden didn’t invite the authoritarian regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.