López Obrador and Trump strengthen US-Mexico relationship during Washington meeting

The Mexican government said the objective of the visit was to mark the start of the USMCA trade agreement

López Obrador and Trump strengthen US-Mexico relationship during Washington meeting
US President Donald J. Trump received Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador at Washington - Photo: Anna Moneymaker/EL UNIVERSAL
English 09/07/2020 13:30 Mexico City Alberto Morales/EL UNIVERSAL & Deb Riechmann, Jill Colvin, Christopher Sherman & Aamer Madhani/AP Actualizada 14:09
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President Donald Trump, who has denigrated Mexican migrants and threatened the U.S. ally with crippling tariffs, welcomed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the White House on Wednesday, called him a cherished partner and claimed the countries’ economic and security ties were reaching new heights.

Trump’s warm words were in stark contrast to the days when he called Mexicans “rapists” and railed against migrants entering the United States illegally. López Obrador had cordial words for Trump, too, saying that while they have disagreed, it was better to find common ground and avoid slinging insults.

The meeting was billed as a celebration of economic ties and the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, but critics in Mexico worried López Obrador was being used as a political pawn to bolster the Trump campaign and his “America first,” anti-illegal migration agenda. Despite the verbal backslapping in the Rose Garden, thorny issues — from immigration to investment — remain.

Trump has dialed back his harsh words since López Obrador took office a year and a half ago. And López Obrador signaled he wanted to put the insults in the past.

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“As in the best times of our political relations, during my term as president of Mexico, instead of insults toward me and more importantly against my country, we have received understanding and respect from you,” López Obrador said.

Their relationship is an odd bromance: López Obrador is a veteran leftist and Trump tacks right.

“Some thought that our ideological differences would have led us inevitably to confrontation,” López Obrador said. “Fortunately, this bad omen didn’t materialize and I consider that in the future there will be no need to break our good political relations, nor the friendship between our governments.”

Later, López Obrador said: “The forecasts failed. We didn’t fight. We are friends, and we’re going to keep being friends.”

President López Obrador asserted both countries are neighboring peoples and brothers that aim to have a good relationship in economic, commercial, social, and cultural terms.

“We’re countries, we’re neighboring peoples, brothers who want to keep good relationships in economic, commercial, social, and cultural terms, and that is the purpose of this visit that, as we said at noon, is the beginning of a new stage. We have signed the new trade agreement between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico ( USMCA) and with this new deal, we’re going the strengthen the economy of our region in North America; that is a fundamental objective and it is, of course, very good news for people in the three countries.”

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Although there are still offenses that are hard to forget, López Obrador thanked Trump for being increasingly respectful toward Mexicans living in the U.S.

“When I decided to come to this meeting, President Trump, there was much debate about the convenience of my trip in my country, I decided to come because the implementation of the trade agreement is highly relevant, but I also wanted to be here to thank the U.S. people, its government, and you, for being increasingly respectful toward our fellow Mexican citizens.”

At the Rose Garden and after holding the first meeting as part of his official work visit, LópezObrador also thanked the U.S. president for not trying to treat Mexico as a colony.

“You have not intended to treat us as a colony, on the contrary, you have honored our condition as an independent nation. That’s why I’m here, to tell the people of the United States that their president has shown kindness and respect toward us.”

López Obrador stressed that what he likes best about Trump is that has never sought to “impose” anything that violates or jeopardizes our sovereignty. “Instead of the Monroe Doctrine, you have followed, in our case, the wise advise of the renowned and prudent George Washington, who warned nations must not take advantage of the misfortune of other people.”

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He also highlighted that Mexico has something extremely valuable to make effective and boost the economic and commercial integration in the región: its Young, creative, and responsible workforce.

“Let’s not forget that the participation of workers in production processes is as important as the role of companies. It would be to no use to have the capital and technology if there are not good workers that stand out for their imagination, their talents, and their working mysticism.”

According to Trump, their friendship developed “against all odds.”

U.S. President Donald Trump said López Obrador’s visit was “exceptional” and asserted that, despite the adversities and bets against the, they have had a good relationship since the beginning.

At the White House, prior to a dinner in honor of the Mexican president, Trump highlighted the contributions made by millions of Mexican-Americans in that country.

“I would like to tell you it has been a pleasure to have you here with us today and it’s been a privilege to have you as a friend. We’ve had a very good relationship since the beginning, despite the adversities and the bets against us, but I think they have already learned not to bet against us.

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“People in Mexico and the U.S. come together in a shared faith for this continent; we are proud sovereign nations, united by devotion and sacrifice; the workers that love their country and give everything to create a better life for them and their children. In the United States, the extraordinary contributions of Mexican-Americans are perceived in all industries, and in all the communities of our nation, trade, science, everywhere, Mexico’s people are worthy.”

The U.S. president also mentioned that Mexican-Americans have created and boosted companies and industries, in addition to being part of the police body and the military forces.

“Here, we reflect on what our people have achieved together throughout several generations and we take advantage of the opportunities we have in the future. We are in a region that touches both oceans and we’re blessed with the most blessed and talented people in the world; everything has to do with people.”

Donald Trump said both nations will be able to unchain a larger potential and more prosperity for their citizens.

“With this visit, I’ve never been more confident about the fate of this majestic continent; that it will never be in better hands and it will never have a better future. Once more, I would like to thank you for being here today; it’s an honor to be here with you,” he said.

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Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the two leaders have “really hit it off” and exchanged gift baseball bats during their meeting. Trump signed and gave López Obrador a custom Louisville Slugger, and the Mexican president gave the president a bat manufactured by indigenous people in southern Mexico, O’Brien said on Fox Business Network’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

The two signed a declaration highlighting U.S.-Mexico relations and the USMCA. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided not to come to Washington to celebrate the agreement, citing scheduling conflicts.

Trump and López Obrador also pledged to cooperate in responding to the coronavirus, which has rocked both nations. Since March 2020, movement across the border has been restricted to essential travel while allowing the flow of goods and services. Last year, Mexico became the largest goods trading partner of the United States.

López Obrador arrived at the White House after morning stops at the Lincoln Memorial and a statue of Benito Juárez, a former Mexican president and national hero. Trump and a military honor guard greeted him at the White House. The two posed for pictures and Trump flashed a thumb’s up. They also were to have dinner at the White House with about 20 U.S. and Mexican business leaders, including Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world, Miguel Rincón, Carlos Bremer, Daniel Chávez Morán, Olegario Vázquez Aldir, Carlos Hank, Francisco González, and Ricardo Salinas Pliego, among others.

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With the U.S. looking to reduce its dependence on China for parts and supplies, Mexico is well-positioned to step into the void, though U.S. businesses have viewed some recent actions taken by the Mexican government as harmful to U.S. investors and say they undermine the framework of the USMCA. López Obrador didn’t publicly address U.S. business concerns.

“If there is not a better investment climate for both foreign and domestic private investment, it will be very difficult to use the opportunity of USMCA and the drift between China and the United States to our advantage,” Gerónimo Gutiérrez, who was Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. in 2017 and 2018, said during a virtual event hosted by the Wilson Center.

With no meetings planned with former Vice President Joe Biden, López Obrador seemingly is banking that Trump will win a second term. The Democratic Party chairman, Tom Perez, recalled Trump’s insults of Mexicans and said the president was now trying to take credit for a trade deal that Democrats in Congress helped make possible.

“Latino communities, immigrants, and the American people deserve a president with the empathy and experience to lead us forward, not a demagogue who cheers on bigotry from the White House,” Perez said, urging voters to elect Biden.

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When he arrived at the White House, López Obrador and Trump did not shake hands as would have been customary before the pandemic. White House spokesman Judd Deere said all members of the Mexican traveling delegation were tested for the virus. The presidents sat at tables positioned many feet apart to sign their joint statement.

López Obrador likes to point out that Trump helped Mexico reach a deal with other oil-producing nations to cut production and aided Mexico in obtaining more ventilators to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Both presidents talk about a blossoming friendship that seems to stem from their pursuit of nationalist agendas.

Many Mexicans, however, remain wary of Trump, whose denunciations are intended to rally his most loyal supporters. Trump has threatened tariffs to strong-arm Mexico into playing an uncomfortable role in U.S. immigration policy and insisted that Mexico will pay for a border wall meant to keep migrants out of the U.S.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wouldn’t get into detail about what the two presidents said about immigration. Mexico deployed 27,000 troops to the border to help stem the tide of illegal immigrants from Central American.

In a joint declaration published on July 8, the United States and Mexico said they "recognize the advancements our two countries have achieved toward a renewed and strengthened partnership equipped to the twenty-first century economic and security challenges of our North American region" and added that "the USMCA agreement "will strengthen our global competitiveness as a region and promote economic growth, jobs, and prosperity for the American and Mexican people."

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