Mexican official says NAL Summit will focus on security and trade

By Caitlin Taylor

Aug 5, 2009 1:42pm

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies and Sarah Tobianski report:

A senior Mexican official spoke with reporters today, in advance of the North American Leaders summit this weekend.  The official, speaking on background, explain that this summit is basically laying the ground work for future endeavors, and advised not expect to see any obvious deliverables – that developing the relationship is essentially the goal.

“No two countries are more important to each other’s security, prosperity, and well being than these two countries – simply by virtue of having a 2,000 mile border,” the official said.

President Obama will meet with President Filipe Calderon and Prime Minister Harper – in bi-lats and a tri-lat.  The leaders will focus on four key areas.

1. Economic Recovery in North America
The leaders will focus on the auto industry, which affects all three nations.  They will also discuss the issue of balancing security concerns along the border, with trade concerns – specifically the keeping trucks flowing in and out of Mexico, which are a ma

The official reminded reporters that while there is a lot of emphasis on the economic relationship with China, the Canada and Mexico are the US’s largest trading partners.

“For all of the mythology about China these days, for every dollar that China buys from the United States, Mexico and Canada together are buying $8 of American exports.  We are your second largest buyer of exports.  Canada is your first buyer of exports.  So as we seek to ensure that our border is safe, and that we are monitoring and we’re ensuring that nobody uses it undermine the security of our three nations, we also need to make sure that as we thicken and strengthen our security on the border that we leave doors open for the free-flow of goods and services,” the official said.

2. Citizen Security
This is a broad area, that includes health issues like H1N1, along with the violent criminal activity along the border.   “A great deal of the discussion will hinge on drugs and thugs,” the official said.  To that end, the official said that drug related crime is still a major issue in Mexico – and directly connected to the demand in the U.S.

“The fight against drugs cannot be won in the traditional sense of a battle, a war or a soccer game,” the official said, “Until you really take control of demand and consumer markets, the demand for drugs is completely inelastic so the economics and dynamics will be such that as long as Mexico sits next to the largest consumer market of illicit drugs in the world.”

Mexico also wants more gun control in the U.S., particularly when it comes to assault weapons.

“I would like to see the assault weapons ban reinstated – it’s not philosophical, it’s because of what we have seen on the ground…There is a direct correlation between the assault ban and expiring in 2004 and the numbers – simply the sheer numbers – of assault weapons that we seize in Mexico…We are both cognizant of what can and cannot be done right now – we will softly, diplomatically…continue to say that this is an important issue for us but I think the real perspectives of this moving on Capitol Hill these days are slim to say the least,” the official said.

““The Mexican government is not about challenging the Second Amendment.  That’s a sovereign decision of the United States.  It’s a sovereign decision of the U.S. Congress.  That’s up to you guys. But the Second Amendment wasn’t adopted by the Founding Fathers to allow transnational organized crime to illicitly buy weapons in the Unites States and be illicitly cross them over international borders into countries where those calibers and types of weapons are prohibited,” the official said.

On H1N1, the official did not have much to say, basically just touted the response as an example of efficacy.  The official said the two countries had worked together on a plan when SARS began spreading in Asia in 2005, which helped the response to H1N1.

“This is a very clear example of how by preparing ahead, by working together, by trying to ahead of the curve, we have built a mechanism which allowed us to – I think – very efficiently, quickly transparently respond to the H1N1 virus this year.  No surprises – this will be an important chunk of the discussion that will take place between the prime minister and the two presidents,” the official said.

3. Enhancing Trade
In addition to the economic priorities listed above, immigration reform will also be addressed in the Obama/Calderon bi-lat. They are not expected to talk specifics – more along the lines what the official called a “road map” for when/how reform might be possible.

“We see immigration as not only a challenge of how do you manage border flows but of how two countries – one abundant in labor the other one abundant in capital – can work together to create synergies where in a legal, transparent, orderly fashion can ensure that willing employees can match willing employees,” the official said.

4. Global/Regional Issues
Everything from Honduras and Cuba, to Iran and Afghanistan, energy and climate change.
The official also spoke about how Mexico would like the three countries to work as more of a block within the other existing partnerships (i.e. G20, G8) to leverage common goals. 

This will be President Obama’s sixth meeting with his Mexican counterpart.  The official described their relationship as a good one.  “Both guys get one another.  They understand each other,” the official said, listing off the things they have in common: both were underdogs when they started their bids for office, both left-handed, they got married the same year – both to successful attorneys. 

–Yunji de Nies and Sarah Tobinanski

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