US, Mexico restart high-level economic talks after 4 years

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Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard,, left, accompanied by, Vice President Kamala Harris, right, speaks at a U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue meeting in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – The United States and Mexico restarted high-level economic talks Thursday after a four-year pause as top advisers to presidents Joe Biden and Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed eagerness to make headway on issues important to both nations such as infrastructure, trade and migration.

The talks were launched by Biden in 2013 when he was vice president under Barack Obama but were halted under President Donald Trump, whose hard-line immigration policies complicated the United States’ relationship with its top trade partner.

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Vice President Kamala Harris opened Thursday's meeting with brief remarks in which she sought to emphasize the Biden administration's desire for warmer relations, referring to the Mexican delegation as “our friends, our partners." She also stressed the importance of improving relations in a moment when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, cyber threats and supply chain disruptions are high priorities for both nations.

“We are very excited about this next stage of the relationship and partnership between the United States and Mexico,” said Harris, who visited Mexico City in June for talks with López Obrador. “Mexico is our closest neighbor … and a strategic partner and one of our most important economic relationships. Mexico’s economic stability is in the interest of the United States."

López Obrador has faced criticism in recent weeks over images of Mexican immigration agents and National Guard troops having sometimes violent clashes with migrants in the southern state of Chiapas. The migration pressure in southern Mexico as well as at the U.S.-Mexico border led López Obrador to renew his effort to persuade the United States to commit funding to social projects he has implemented in southern Mexico that he says could be expanded to Central America.

He said he sent a letter this week to Biden stressing that people participating in the programs should also be offered work visas in the United States, because Biden will need the labor force to carry out his ambitious infrastructure plan.

“Today’s meeting is very important so that we initiate a new stage, because there has not been attention to the population that is obligated to migrate,” López Obrador said at his daily news conference. “There hasn’t been in years. Nothing. Everything is contain. Everything is coercion. And that is not how social problems are resolved.”

The U.S. side was represented by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, USAID Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.

Mexico's delegation included Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Economy Tatiana Clouthier, Ambassador to the U.S. Esteban Moctezuma, Under Secretary of Finance Gabriel Yorio, Under Secretary of Foreign Trade Luz Maria de la Mora, Chief Officer for North America Roberto Velasco, and Director General for International Treaties’ Monitoring, Administration and Compliance Oversight Lydia Antonio.

Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman contributed from Mexico City.

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