Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to leave any ‘myths and prejudices aside’ and to open borders further to satisfy workforce shortages.
‘We should no longer reject immigrants because in order to grow you need workforce – the workforce that you do not necessarily have in the U.S. nor in Canada,’ López Obrador said via a translator at the top of Thursday night’s ‘Three Amigos’ summit.
While Biden and Trudeau kept their remarks in front of the press brief, López Obrador spoke at-length about North American competition with China before telling Biden he should let the 11 million people living illegally in the U.S. to stay.
‘President Biden, no president in the history of the United States has expressed as you have such a clear and certain commitment to improve the situation of the migrants and thus I wish to express my acknowledgement,’ López Obrador said.
‘And I particularly refer to your proposal to regulate the migratory status of the 11 million people who live and work honestly in this great nation,’ he continued. ‘I hope you have the support of Congress and the members of both the Democrat and Republican Party.’
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (left) called on President Joe Biden (center) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) to leave any ‘myths and prejudices aside’ and to open borders further to satisfy workforce shortages
While President Joe Biden (left) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (center) kept their comments brief, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke at length about the threat China poses and gave Biden and Trudeau advice on immigration policy
President Joe Biden smiles as he listens during Thursday’s ‘three amigos’ summit held in the White House’s East Room
Biden does not have the support of members of the Republican Party, which currently reflects the hardline positions on immigration held by former President Donald Trump.
López Obrador had a solution for the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border – put them to work.
‘Why not study the workforce demand, the labor demand and open the migratory flow?’ he suggested to the two leaders.
The migrant crisis has been a thorn in Biden’s side, as a record number of border-crossers have flooded into the U.S. this year, but there’s been very little politicali will to reward this behavior.
López Obrador set the conversation up by remarking on the strength of China.
‘We must not forget that whlie Canada, UnitedStates and Mexico account for 13 per cent of the world market, China remains 14.4 per cent,’ he said. ‘And this imbalance started out only 30 years ago in 1990 China’s share was 1.7 per cent and North America’s was 16 per cent.’
He also pushed the greater flow of immigration as the creative solution.
‘President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau, I’m sure we can agree on the fact that we are living in, let’s say, interesting times of adversity and challenges. But that’s the way it is and that’s how creativity and passion can emerge in order to transform and make history,’ López Obrador added.
López Obrador comments came during the leaders’ main meeting of the day after Biden greeted both Trudea and López Obrador separately in the Oval Office Thursday afternoon.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) looks through a briefing binder in the White House’s East Room Thursday during the ‘three amigos’ summit
President Joe Biden (left) and and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) attend the North American Leaders’ Summit
Trudeau came to the West Wing first, with Biden telling the Canadian leader, ‘This is one of the easiest relationships that we have.’
The president acknowledged during the meeting that a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing is ‘something we are considering.’
During Biden’s virtual meeting with China’s Xi Jinping Monday night, White House officials said the Olympics didn’t come up – however The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a boycott was on the table.
In the Oval, Biden brushed off another question about tax breaks for electric cars made solely in the U.S., which is a part of the current Build Back Better package, and something the Canadians have a problem with.
‘We’re going to talk about that,’ he told reporters in the room. Trudeau didn’t even acknowledge the reporters’ questions.
During López Obrador’s time in the Oval, Biden ignored shouted questions.
The Mexican president spoke for nine-minutes in Spanish, not taking breaks for his translator to keep up, prompting a chuckle from the American president who knew she faced a challenge. ‘Let’s see if you can do it,’ Biden said.
President Joe Biden (right) welcomes Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) to the White House Thursday for their bilateral meeting head of the North American Leaders’ Summit, scheduled for later in the afternoon
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on during a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office Thursday afternoon
President Joe Biden said during a short Q&A at the top of his meeting with Canada’s Justin Trudeau that instituting a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics is ‘something we are considering’
President Joe Biden (right) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) listen to reporters’ questions at the top of their meeting Thursday in the Oval Office
After meeting with Trudeau, President Joe Biden (right) hosted Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrado (left) in the Oval Office
The Mexican president spoke at length in the Oval Office in Spanish
Biden assured López Obrador that the United States does not see Mexico as the ‘U.S. backyard’ and instead as equals.
Thursday’s meetings mark the first North American summit since 2016, as former President Donald Trump didn’t keep up the Bush 43-era tradition.
But the ‘three amigos’ as they are known, will not hold a joint press conference.
In all eight summits held since the meeting’s inception in 2005, there has been a trilateral press conference.
During Thursday’s press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said the lack of press conference wasn’t ‘as scandalous as that in terms of the backstory.’
She said there was a ‘change of schedule,’ as Biden signed three first responder-related bills Thursday morning, which prevented a tri-lateral press conference from being booked after the scheduled 4:45 p.m. meeting with both López Obrador and Trudeau.
White House deputy press secretary Chris Meagher said Wednesday there would be ‘pool sprays’ – which is when reporters yell questions at the leaders.
The leaders do not have to answer them, as Trudeau displayed.
However, he did crack a joke about how the Canadian journalists ‘definitely have health coverage’ as the U.S. and Canadian press pools filed into the Oval.
The White House has pointed out there will be separate opportunities for the leaders to be questioned – at the top of each bilateral meeting Biden is hosting, first with Trudeau and then with López Obrador.
But former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush held full press conferences with their counterparts at their respective summits, which led to some questions the leaders struggled to answer, including the future of relations between the three countries following the election of Donald Trump.
‘I’ll be happy to answer questions after I meet with all the leaders,’ Biden said Thursday morning, in advance of the meetings, at a bill signing event.
During an interview with Politico Wednesday, Psaki said Biden’s lack of official press conferences is more of a media problem than an issue for the American people.
‘I think that’s more of an issue related to the White House press corps … and D.C. press, than it is of concern to the American public,’ Psaki said in an interview that was part of a Politico Women Rule livestream event.
In Thursday’s briefing, she was told by White House Correspondents’ Association President Steven Portnoy, ‘we would like a press conference,’ after she responded, ‘You can you can ask questions in any format, right? I don’t think you need a formal embroidered chair for it.’
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) shakes hands with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) during a meeting in Washington before the leaders headed to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden
Vice President Kamala Harris (right) and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (left) wave from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Vice President Kamala Harris (left) speaks before a meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (right) in her office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Afterward, Vice President Kamala Harris (left) hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and Vice President Kamala Harris (right) wave at reporters from the balcony of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Thursday afternoon
Vice President Kamala Harris (left) told Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right) that the U.S.-Canada relationship is significant ‘to me in particular’ because she lived in Canada as a child
Trudeau arrived in Washington Wednesday with concerns about buy-American provisions in the president’s proposed $1.85 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation bill.
Mexico’s priorities heading into the summit were to obtain concrete advances on immigration and more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
While Biden was meeting with Trudeau, Vice President Kamala Harris was hosting López Obrador at her office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Harris later hosted Trudeau for a similar meeting.
Upon meeting the Canadian PM, Harris said the relationship is significant ‘to me in particular’ because she lived in Canada as a child.
There are growing concerns in Canada about a provision in the spending plan that would offer U.S. consumers a $7,500 tax credit if they buy electric vehicles through 2026.
The following year, only purchases of electric vehicles made in the U.S. would qualify for the credit. The base credit would go up by $4,500 if the vehicle was made at a U.S. plant that operates under a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called the incentive a clear violation of an updated trade agreement among the three countries that aimed to protect U.S. jobs and products made in North America.
Trudeau, Freeland and other Canadian ministers met with U.S. officials on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
And Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said she raised concerns about the electric vehicle provision with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week.
Freeland said that for Canada, ‘Job one here in the U.S. this week is to really make our American counterparts aware of the extent to which their current approach to this issue is a problem for Canada and to really explain to them that the way they have formulated this incentive really, really has the potential to become the dominant issue in our bilateral relationship.’
Meagher said the electric vehicle tax incentives are an essential part of Biden’s push to link efforts to curb climate emissions with job creation in the U.S.
The U.S. and Canada, meanwhile, have expressed frustration that López Obrador has failed to get on board with global efforts to curb climate emissions. The Mexican president skipped this month’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow.
López Obrador´s government, for its part, wants promised U.S. development funds for the Northern Triangle countries of Central America to be firmed up. The Mexican leader continues to press the U.S. to fund an expansion of his tree planting program to Central America.
Mexico has worked with the United States – under both Trump and Biden – to control migrant flows and assist in returning migrants to Central America.
The two countries are still negotiating the court-ordered re-implementation of a Trump-era policy known as Remain in Mexico, which forced asylum seekers to wait out their U.S. asylum process in Mexico.
López Obrador has also mentioned on multiple occasions his interest in the U.S. government expanding its temporary work visa program so more Mexicans and Central Americans can fill the demand for labor in the U.S.
The temporary workers in turn could have access to the higher pay they seek in the U.S. without becoming part of the illegal immigration flow.
Arriving in Washington on Wednesday, Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said his government would focus on three issues: the pandemic, economic integration and immigration.
On immigration, Ebrard said Mexico would try to rally support for two of López Obrador´s signature social programs – tree planting and youth job opportunities – to reduce the push factors of migration.
Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, recently expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the Mexican government´s attempts to limit competition in the electrical power sector.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (right) Wednesday ahead of his Thursday meetings at the White House
Trudeau and Biden are also expected to discuss the future of an oil pipeline that crosses part of the Great Lakes and is the subject of rising tension over whether it should be shut down.
Biden is caught in a battle over Enbridge’s Line 5, a key segment of a pipeline network that carries Canadian oil across the U.S. Midwest.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat and Biden ally, has demanded closure of the 68-year-old line because of the potential for a catastrophic rupture along a 4-mile section in the Straits of Mackinac, which connects Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
The Biden administration has not taken a position but is under increasing pressure to do so.
Canada last month invoked a 1977 treaty that guarantees the unimpeded transit of oil between the two nations.