Photo: Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto
U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that he supports the Mexican government’s efforts to reduce violence in this country and emphasized that the bilateral relationship is “dynamic.”
Obama said at a joint press conference after his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that the two leaders agreed to continue the countries’ tight security coordination.
He also promised “strong cooperation” from the U.S. as Mexico moves to reduce internal violence, particularly as it relates to organized crime, adding that Washington will work to “meet our responsibilities to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and reduce the southbound flow of guns and cash.”
For his part, Peña Nieto said that “the new strategy in the area of security in our country has a clear intent: fighting organized crime of whatever kind,” whether it be drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion or anything else.
He also said that he had agreed with Obama to take joint measures to create a “more secure border,” albeit one that facilitates the passage of persons and goods.
Obama thanked Peña Nieto and the Mexican people in Spanish for their hospitality and he went on to express his support for the reforms undertaken by the Mexican leader’s government.
“What I have been impressed with is the president’s boldness in his reform agenda,” Obama said. “He’s tackling big issues, and that’s what the times demand. We live in a world that’s changing rapidly. ... We can’t be flat-footed as the world advances.”
If Mexico is successful in that effort, that will be good for the United States, the U.S. leader emphasized.
Obama and Peña Nieto, in a joint statement issued after their meeting, announced the creation of a high-level economic dialogue - the first meeting of which will take place this year - to promote competitiveness, productivity and connectivity, along with fostering economic growth and innovation.
“As Mexico works to become more competitive, you’ve got a strong partner in the United States because our success is shared,” Obama said, noting that annual bilateral trade now exceeds $500 billion.
The United States is Mexico’s largest customer and Mexico is the second-largest market for U.S. exports.
The two presidents also reconfirmed their commitment to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
With regard to immigration reform, Obama said that he is “optimistic” that the U.S. Congress will pass a comprehensive reform package. “If we’re going to get that done, now is the time to do it,” he said.
The majority of foreign-born immigrants in the United States are Mexicans, and many of them are undocumented.
The two leaders also spoke about the importance of working together with Canada with an eye toward making North America the world’s most dynamic and competitive region.
Obama and Peña Nieto also concluded agreements in the educational area and reaffirmed their commitment to act as jointly responsible partners in the area of public safety.
Obama arrived in Mexico on Thursday on an official visit that will focus on economic issues.
After his meeting with Peña Nieto, he returned to a hotel in the exclusive Polanco neighborhood, where he is scheduled to meet with local U.S. Embassy personnel and on Thursday evening Obama will attend a dinner in his honor hosted by the Mexican president.