Trump Hosts President López Obrador of Mexico to Spotlight Trade and Immigration

Trump Hosts President López Obrador of Mexico to Spotlight Trade and Immigration

Trump Hosts President López Obrador of Mexico to Spotlight Trade and Immigration

Trump Hosts President López Obrador of Mexico to Spotlight Trade and Immigration

President Trump welcomed Mexico’s president to the White House on Wednesday for a feel-good meeting between unlikely partners that was meant to celebrate a revised North American Free Trade Agreement that Mr. Trump hailed as historic but that is expected to have only modest economic effects.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador was the second foreign leader to visit the White House since mid-March, and the meeting was largely a public relations event to mark the official July 1 enactment of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A.

The warm tone of the joint appearance was notable given that Mr. Trump has made cracking down on immigration from Mexico a core theme of his presidency. He has repeatedly pressured Mexico, under threat of severe economic punishment, to help him control the border after abandoning his campaign promise to make the country pay for a wall to do it.

Appearing with his Mexican counterpart in the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said the relationship between the United States and Mexico “has never been closer,” even though “a little while ago, people were betting against that.”

Mr. López Obrador responded that the two countries were “setting aside differences, or we are solving those differences through a dialogue and mutual respect.”

Mr. Trump boasted that the U.S.M.C.A., a successor to the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement signed by President Bill Clinton, was “the largest, fairest and most advanced trade deal ever reached by any country.” He also claimed that “it will bring enormous prosperity to both American and Mexican workers and Canada.”

Economists take a different view, saying it will have only a marginal economic impact. An April 2019 report from the International Trade Commission estimated that the new pact would create 172,000 jobs and increase the United States’ gross domestic product by 0.35 percent.

In the presence of Mr. López Obrador, Mr. Trump, who hopes to at least match the 28 percent of the Latino vote he carried in 2016, spoke in positive tones about Mexican citizens of the United States, in a marked contrast to his hostile tone toward undocumented immigrants from the country.

“The United States is home to 36 million incredible Mexican-American citizens. Mexican-Americans uplift our communities and they strengthen our churches and enrich every feature of national life,” Mr. Trump said. “They are hardworking, incredible people.”

But he also boasted about a falling rate of southern border crossings. Mr. López Obrador has played an important role in Mr. Trump’s relentless campaign to restrict immigration by ordering more vigorous enforcement on Mexican territory. “We’ve been helped greatly by Mexico on creating record numbers, in a positive sense, on our southern border,” Mr. Trump said.

The two leaders have little in common ideologically — Mr. López Obrador is an avowed leftist — but Mr. Trump has used the United States’ tremendous economic leverage, including threats of tariffs and even a total border closing, to pressure the Mexican leader.

Mr. López Obrador dismissed any notion of tension, telling Mr. Trump that “some people thought that our ideological differences would inevitably lead to confrontations.”

“Fortunately,” he continued, “this has not been the case.”

While few expected Mr. López Obrador to cross swords with his American counterpart, he was at times strikingly warm and congenial toward a president who, as a candidate, famously said that Mexico was “sending” criminals and rapists across the border into the United States.

Mr. López Obrador told Mr. Trump that “instead of aggression,” the U.S. president had granted Mexico “understanding and respect.” And he said Mr. Trump had “not tried 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 express to the people of the United States that their president has behaved with us with kindness and respect,” he added.

A Pew poll released in January found that 89 percent of Mexicans lacked confidence in Mr. Trump.

“The forecasts failed,” Mr. López Obrador told reporters at the end of the day. “We didn’t fight. We are friends, and we’re going to keep being friends.”

After their remarks, the leaders signed a joint declaration, with no practical import, calling the U.S.M.C.A. “the ideal instrument to provide economic certainty and increased confidence to our countries, which will be critical to the recovery that has begun in both of our nations.”

Mr. Trump also said that he had “worked closely” with Mr. López Obrador to battle the coronavirus, and that the United States had sent Mexico 600 ventilators, with more to come. Health experts have criticized both leaders for a complacent response to the virus.

The men were scheduled to dine later in the East Room of the White House with Mexican and U.S. business executives. A senior administration official said the event amounted to a state dinner “lite,” within the limits of coronavirus precautions.

Spotlighting what Mr. Trump hopes will be an asset to his re-election, the Trump campaign on Wednesday issued a statement hailing the U.S.M.C.A., calling it a “stark contrast” to “Joe Biden’s failed globalism.” Mr. Trump boasts that he pressured Mexico and Canada into adding new protections for American workers, and the agreement won the support of some major unions, including the 12.5 million member A.F.L.-C.I.O.

A Canadian spokeswoman said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had chosen not to travel to the United States this week to celebrate the trade deal because of a scheduling conflict with a session of Parliament on Wednesday. But relations between the Trump administration and Canadian officials have turned chilly since last month, when U.S. officials said their Canadian counterparts must voluntarily restrain their own metal exports or face tariffs again.

The U.S.M.C.A. officially went into effect on July 1, but American officials have emphasized that both Mexico and Canada still fall short of fulfilling several of the pledges they made under the pact.

Trump administration officials have criticized Mexico’s continued refusal of American biotech products, like genetically modified corn, and its unfair treatment of American news media companies.

And Mexico has only partly carried out the major reforms to its labor system that the deal required, which were aimed at lifting wages and improving working conditions in Mexico, to put U.S. and Canadian workers on more even footing with Mexican competitors.

Mexico passed a sweeping labor law in 2019 to give workers more ability to organize and bargain with their bosses, but that law now faces hundreds of challenges in the Mexican Supreme Court, and violence against Mexican labor activists has continued.

U.S. officials have also said they are “closely monitoring” Canada’s efforts to open up its dairy market to American farmers, and threatened to reimpose tariffs on Canadian aluminum, following an increase in shipments of Canadian metal to the United States after tariffs were lifted last year.

Before visiting the White House, Mr. López Obrador laid a wreath at the memorial to Abraham Lincoln, who he noted in his remarks at the White House had refused to recognize the French-installed monarch of Mexico, Maximilian, who was overthrown and executed in 1867.

Azam Ahmed and Ana Swanson contributed reporting.

Source link

Check Also

India’s Economy Shrinks Sharply as Covid-19 Slams Small Businesses

India’s Economy Shrinks Sharply as Covid-19 Slams Small Businesses

India’s Economy Shrinks Sharply as Covid-19 Slams Small Businesses India’s Economy Shrinks Sharply as Covid-19 …