WASHINGTON — President Biden hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico on the White Home on Thursday, a diplomatic mission that noticed three leaders making an attempt to mission a united entrance amid commerce scuffles, accusations of American protectionism and ongoing considerations over surging migration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
However whereas they agreed to kind a working group on regional provide chain points, together with for vital minerals, and struck an settlement to share vaccines, the leaders appeared intent on relaying diplomatic niceties over tackling thornier questions like commerce disputes or the surging numbers of migrants.
“We are able to meet all the challenges if we simply take the time to talk with each other,” Mr. Biden mentioned throughout a gathering with each leaders on Thursday night.
The return of the summit after a five-year hiatus signaled an elevated urge for food amongst North American leaders to indicate a way of strategic and financial solidarity amid an increase in competitors from Asia and Europe. The gathering additionally comes at a vital second for the United States, because the breakdown in world provide chains and the mass motion of individuals throughout the Americas has made cooperation with Mexico and Canada extra very important than ever.
“This is without doubt one of the best relationships that we’ve,” Mr. Biden mentioned throughout a gathering with Mr. Trudeau, glossing over Canada’s complaints that the president’s buy-American insurance policies on items like electrical automobiles have disrupted commerce between the 2 international locations.
In his first in-person assembly with Mr. López Obrador since turning into president, Mr. Biden, talking via a translator, mentioned he noticed america and Mexico as equals. The Mexican president praised Mr. Biden’s plan to supply citizenship to over 11 million undocumented migrants dwelling in america, a proposal that has gained little steam in Congress.
All through the day, every chief declined to reply questions from reporters about American insurance policies that flip asylum seekers again to Mexico. Mr. Biden’s advisers mentioned the group would focus on humane methods to deal with the basis causes that drive folks north and would confront the circulate of fentanyl and different medication towards the U.S.-Mexico border. However in addition they mentioned the group wouldn’t focus on insurance policies which have grow to be flash factors for immigration activists, together with a program that forces some asylum seekers to attend in Mexico whereas their instances are pending.
When requested how the issue of migration may very well be mentioned with out mentioning these packages, Jen Psaki, the White Home press secretary, informed reporters that pending litigation prevented the coverage, referred to as Stay in Mexico, from being brazenly mentioned, “however definitely migration shall be.”
At some point earlier than the summit, greater than 70 human rights and immigration advocacy organizations pressed Mr. Biden and his counterparts to debate what they described as “merciless, ineffective and illegal” immigration insurance policies.
No accords had been struck over ongoing disagreements over how every nation has dealt with its commerce commitments. Since Mr. Biden took workplace, the particulars of that Trump-era revision of the North American Free Commerce Settlement, known as america Mexico Canada Settlement, have been in dispute. The pact sought to replace Mexico’s labor legal guidelines, encourage extra auto manufacturing in North America, and open Canadian markets for American dairy farmers.
In current weeks, the Canadian authorities has argued that the tax credit score supplied to American shoppers who purchase American-made electrical automobiles is in breach of the accord. Talking to reporters in a information convention on Monday, Mr. Trudeau mentioned that the Biden administration’s buy-American ethos was “counterproductive” to selling commerce between the 2 international locations.
“We don’t view it that manner,” Ms. Psaki mentioned to reporters on Thursday. “In our view, the electrical automobile tax credit score is a chance to assist shoppers on this nation.”
For its half, the Biden administration has accused the Canadian government of practices that favor their domestic dairy farmers and has raised concerns that Mexico’s vitality insurance policies give state-owned firms an unfair benefit. American officers mentioned on Wednesday that Mr. Biden deliberate to reaffirm U.S.M.C.A. provisions in help of labor rights safety, a reference to a dispute settled against Mexico earlier this 12 months.
The leaders did strike an settlement over vaccine sharing, with Canada and Mexico agreeing to share “thousands and thousands” of doses with poorer international locations in Latin America and the Caribbean, an official mentioned.
For Mr. Biden, the extra delicate discussions had been positive to return with Mexico’s president, who has lashed out at america and pursed insurance policies that run counter to American pursuits. Whereas Mr. López Obrador lavished reward on President Donald J. Trump for not interfering in Mexican affairs, he has taken a extra brazenly confrontational stance towards American insurance policies since Mr. Biden took workplace.
Mexico, lengthy an underdog within the relationship with its neighbors, has earned appreciable leverage in a 12 months that noticed a wave of pandemic-fueled migration from Latin America. For the Biden administration, the significance of sustaining sturdy Mexican enforcement was made clear in September, when 1000’s of Haitians walked throughout the border to Texas.
“The facility stability between the Mexican authorities and the U.S. authorities has shifted due to the circumstances,” mentioned Duncan Wooden, the vp of technique on the Wilson Heart. Mexican officers, Mr. Wooden mentioned, “know they will harm the Biden administration, and so they know that the Biden administration is aware of that.”
Simply this week, Mr. López Obrador skewered the American embargo on Cuba as “vile” and attacked the Biden administration for serving to to fund Mexican media teams that he described as “opposition publications.” (The president beforehand mentioned that American financing for Mexican civil society quantities to “selling a coup mentality.”)
Vice President Kamala Harris met with Mr. López Obrador throughout her journey to Mexico over the summer season and has since been seen as an inside keeper of that relationship. In her personal assembly with Mr. López Obrador on Thursday, Ms. Harris spoke of their shared curiosity in historical past but additionally “the problem of our mutual concern about migration and what we are going to do as companions to deal with, specifically, the basis causes of migration.”
Mr. López Obrador, for his half, seized a second in the course of the assembly with Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau to warn of rising competitors from China and the dangers of a snarled world provide chain.
“The most effective, essentially the most handy factor, is to strengthen our economies, to strengthen our commerce operations via North America and your entire continent,” he mentioned. “It’s a paradox that a lot cash circulates all through North America, and the ports of the Pacific are overwhelmed with merchandise from Asia.”
Mr. López Obrador additionally mentioned migration represented a “large potential” to bolster the work forces of every nation, and reminded Mr. Biden of his earlier dedication to discover a technique to provide a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.
“No president within the historical past of america has expressed as you’ve such a transparent and sure dedication to enhance the scenario of the migrants,” Mr. López Obrador mentioned via a translator. “I hope that you’ve the help of Congress and the members of each the Democrat and Republican events.”
Katie Rogers reported from Washington, and Natalie Kitroeff from Mexico Metropolis. Ana Swanson, Eileen Sullivan and Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting from Washington.