In the first visit by an American president to Mexico City in 12 years, President Obama faces hot-button issues such as trade, immigration and escalating violence that will further complicate his economic agenda at home.
Obama arrived in Mexico City Thursday afternoon to meet with President Calderon. Over the weekend, Obama travels to a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders on the island of Trinidad.
Just as it was at the G-20 meetings earlier this month, the global economic crisis is certainly high on the president's agenda, but it may be overshadowed by the epidemic of drug-related crime in Mexico.
With almost 6,300 killings in Mexico last year, U.S. officials fear that violence will spill over the border. Obama has said he wants to reduce the demand for drugs coming into the United States and the flow of guns and money crossing the border in the other direction.
"A number of weapons going into Mexico are coming from the United States, so we have moved agents, resources, we actually have dogs that are trained to sniff guns. We have moved them to do southbound checks as well as continuing and enhancing the northbound work that we're doing," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on "Good Morning America."
On Wednesday, Napolitano named Alan Bersin, a former federal prosecutor, to a new post overseeing border security and illegal immigration issues. In that role Bersin will serve as Napolitano's senior advisor on these issues and work closely with Mexican officials.
In an interview with "Nightline's" Terry Moran, Calderon adamantly rejected the notion -- advanced in a Pentagon report in December and echoed by some Latin America watchers -- that Mexico is on the verge of become a "failed state." He said some of the blame for his country's violence should be aimed at the United States and the demand for drugs here.
Obama's visit to Mexico's teeming capital of 20-million plus people is the first by an American president in 12 years. When former president George W. Bush traveled to Mexico, he went to smaller cities and resort towns.
The White House says the visit to Mexico is meant to show support for Calderon, who Obama sat down with before his inauguration to talk economic and security issues.
"The stop in Mexico is meant to send a message, and that is it's a message of admiration for the courageous steps that President Calderón has undertaken," said Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council. "It is meant to send a signal of respect, mutual respect with our Mexican neighbors."
Obama and Calderon are expected to talk about trade and economic issues and immigration, which, though usually such a hot-button issue in U.S.-Mexican relations, will likely take a back seat to the more urgent matters of the drug trade and security.
One potentially contentious issue relates to the revocation of a pilot program that allowed Mexican commercial trucks to enter the United States. Mexico fired back by slapping tariffs on nearly 90 U.S. products, up to $2.4 billion worth of export goods, and has threatened to raise them even more if the United States doesn't restore the program.