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SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 17 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday expressed a shared desire to tackle migration and drug trafficking, finding common ground on issues in the bilateral relationship and the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Biden was concluding a four-day diplomatic push with China and other Pacific nations and was to hold a final meeting with Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders after the talks with Lopez Obrador.
“Mexico and the United States stand together,” Biden said. “We see it in our security cooperation, we’re working side-by-side to combat arms trafficking, to tackle organized crime and to address the opioid epidemic, including fentanyl.”
Lopez Obrador described the U.S.- Mexico relationship as respectful and cooperative, and he praised Biden for his immigration policies, calling him an “extraordinary president” and “a man with conviction.”
“As far as the fight against drugs goes, Mexico is committed to continue helping to prevent the entry of chemicals and fentanyl,” Lopez Obrador said. “We’re very conscious of the damage it does to the youth of the United States.”
Biden, a Democrat, has grappled with record numbers of migrants attempting to cross illegally from Mexico since he took office in 2021 and is facing attacks over the issue as he runs for reelection. He also faces criticism from Republicans for not doing enough to stop fentanyl coming in from Mexico.
In a readout of the talks, the White House said the two men had “agreed to sustain and expand the close cooperation that we have achieved in managing migration” in the region.
“The leaders discussed the need for all countries in the region to do their part to humanely manage migration,” it said.
Biden also expressed appreciation for the full commitment Lopez Obrador had made to confront the challenge posed by fentanyl, it added.
Republicans have criticized Biden for reversing hardline immigration policies of Republican former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for his party’s 2024 nomination.
Trump has said he would restore his 2019 “remain in Mexico” program, which forced non-Mexican asylum-seekers seeking to enter the U.S. via the Mexican border to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their cases.
Mexico overtook Canada and China to become the largest U.S. goods trading partner in the first half of 2023, reaching total trade of $396.6 billion. In 2022, Mexico had a $130.5 billion goods trade surplus with the United States.
Biden on Friday will formally transfer the chair of APEC to Peru President Dina Boluarte.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Jarrett Renshaw; additional reporting by Dave Graham and David Ljunggren
Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O’Brien
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA’s work was recognized with Deutsche Welle’s “Freedom of Speech Award.” Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.