US President Joe Biden held a virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in an effort to reverse the harsh and often abrasive attitude of his predecessor Donald Trump towards the southern neighbor of the United States.
Biden sat down with other masked officials from his administration in Washington, DC, surrounded by reporters, and spoke through a screen with Lopez Obrador in Mexico City, assisted by an interpreter.
On the agenda were immigration, the coronavirus pandemic and climate issues. The tone was quite different from that of former President Trump, who called on Mexican rapists and whose administration’s signing policy was to build a wall along the southern border of the United States to stem the migration.
“We see Mexico as an equal, not as someone south of the border,” Biden said. “You are equal and what you do in Mexico and how you succeed has a huge impact on what the rest of the hemisphere will look like.”
Lopez Obrador, often referred to by his initials AMLO, acknowledged the gesture. “We are very grateful that you are willing to maintain good relations for the good of our people in North America,” he said at the meeting.
But Lopez Obrador came to the meeting with a more specific agenda in mind: asking Biden to sell the Mexico he needed so badly. vaccines to propel his country’s blocked coronavirus vaccination campaign.
“We want to receive a response to a request we made,” Lopez Obrador said Monday ahead of the meeting at a press conference, “and if President Biden thought about it, he could give us an answer on immunization at the time. of our meeting. “
The White House, however, made it clear earlier Monday that the Biden administration was focused on vaccinating its own people.
“No, the president has made it clear that he is working to ensure that vaccines are available to all Americans,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “This is our goal.”
The response was seen as a snub in Mexico, leading to a wave of criticism on social media and among political commentators who saw Biden’s response as yet another failure of AMLO to contain the pandemic. More than 186,000 Mexicans have died from the coronavirus, the third highest number in the world.
Even if Mexico Has contracts with several drugmakers for millions of doses, vaccines have been too slow to arrive amid global production shortages and shipping delays.
On Tuesday, Lopez Obrador sought to dispel criticism and said that although the two countries could not come to an agreement on his proposal, they would work on a deal.
“In order to eliminate doubts and misunderstandings, Biden had an understanding attitude towards our position,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference.
“The teams from both countries will see what is possible and when,” he said. “There was no discrepancy, I’ll put it that way, categorically, not a single difference.”
Biden made the overthrow of Trump’s anti-immigration policies a focus of its administration. He stopped a program which forced asylum seekers to wait for their court dates in Mexico and offered a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented migrants living in the United States.
Lopez Obrador, under threat of economic tariffs from the Trump administration, has agreed to prevent the flow of Central American migrants from reaching the US-Mexico border. That arrangement appears to remain in place, with Mexican National Guard troops still patrolling Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and continuing to prevent migrants from crossing.
Lopez Obrador added that the two leaders exchanged invitations for in-person visits, without giving a date. The borders between the United States, Mexico and Canada have been largely closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And they should remain closed until neighbors make significant progress in their respective vaccination campaigns.
At the end of the meeting, the two countries issued a joint statement pledging to strengthen cooperation on migration, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.