United States, Mexico to restart economic talks after 4 years on Sept. 9

U.S.-Mexico border during COVID-19 outbreak in California
FILE PHOTO: A view of a closed pedestrian crossing at the U.S.-Mexico border, after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, U.S., April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

September 3, 2021

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will restart a high-level economic dialogue with Mexico after a gap of four years, with a focus on topics such as investments in Southern Mexico to tackle migration from the region and building stronger supply chains as a global chip shortage hurts automakers in both countries.

The talks, scheduled for Sept. 9, will aim to rebuild a partnership that has shifted significantly in recent years and cover other key themes such as trade facilitation. It will also focus on promoting investment in the Northern Triangle of Central America – which includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – in an effort to stem migration from the region, said a senior administration official, who did not wish to be named.

President Joe Biden has pledged to adopt more humanitarian migration policies than his predecessor, Donald Trump, and focus on the root causes of migration but has faced a surge in the number of migrants arriving at the southern border. Vice President Kamala Harris, who spearheads the administration’s efforts to lower the number of people showing up at the southern border, visited Mexico and Guatemala in June.

Mexico’s relationship with the United States suffered significantly under Trump, who began his White House bid by tarring Mexican migrants as rapists and gun-runners and vowing to keep them out with a border wall.

“We have invested a lot in rebuilding that trust … and it’s something that we need to keep working on,” the official said. “It is about recognizing that we will not agree with Mexico on everything, but we are going to work to find common ground,” the official said.

The two countries share a 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border and a commercial relationship that generates more than half a trillion dollars in annual bilateral trade and supports millions of jobs in both countries.

The talks were launched by Biden in 2013, when he served as vice president under Barack Obama but were suspended under Trump.

“The objective is to start an institutional relationship on matters of security, on matters of economic cooperation … identify priorities at a cabinet level and engage in a way our governments can be responsive,” the official said.

The talks will also focus on items that are a part of Biden’s domestic ‘Build Back Better’ agenda such as revamping the automotive industry in the United States and making major investments in electric vehicles, the official said.

Other topics include discussing workforce development and boosting worker rights under a trade pact between the countries called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement(USMCA), the administration official said.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he would send a letter to Biden urging him to make it easier for migrants who enroll in apprentice or work schemes to obtain temporary work visas of six months to the United States. The official did not comment on the issue.

The official said participants from the United States will include Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Ken Salazar, who was sworn in as the new ambassador to Mexico on Thursday.

Mexico has said its delegation will be led by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier, along with senior finance ministry officials and the country’s ambassador to the United States, Esteban Moctezuma.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Steve Orlofsky)