By Sandra G. Leon
The current presidents of the US and Mexico met for the first time on Wednesday and signed a joint declaration celebrating the newly revised trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada which replaces NAFTA.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited the White House to meet with President Trump and sign the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement known as the USMCA, which was passed by Congress and signed by Trump last year. The new agreement makes some changes to NAFTA, including increased protections for digital trade, changes in point of origin rules that determine what products can be traded across borders without tariffs, encouraging higher minimum wages on car manufacturing, and strengthens labor enforcement mechanisms.
“The USMCA reaffirms our shared understanding that North America is a region that generates prosperity for all of its citizens and it strengthens our cooperation in fighting corruption through the strongest disciplines on corruption in international trade of any international agreement,” the joint declaration stated.
It was the first time the presidents of the neighboring countries met in person, although they have talked by phone several times since López Obrador was elected in late 2018.
López Obrador fully supports the USMCA , saying the three countries will all contribute productive capacity, technology, experience, expertise and labor.
“For instance, Mexico has something which is extremely valuable to make this economic integration effective and to boost this integration — economic and commercial integration — in the region. I’m talking about this very young, creative and responsible labor force,” Lopez Obrador said.
Trump and López Obrador did not take any questions from reporters after their announcement, although reporters shouting questions to the pair, including about funding for the border wall.
White House press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said she did not hear the two presidents discuss the wall during the time she was in the room with them, saying, “That discussion did not come up when I was in the room.” It is not clear if the two leaders addressed the ongoing political issue of the border wall during their meetings.
Donald Trump has made building a wall along the border a central issue of his campaign and presidency. During his first campaign and early into his term, Trump promised to that Mexico would pay for the cost of building the wall with changing details on how a foreign country would be forced to provide funding. Since then, Trump has secured US federal funding for new sections of the wall, including having issues executive orders that diverted billions of dollars from military projects.
A recent federal court decision ruled that Trump illegally diverted the military funding.
López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, ran on a platform of liberal social policies, including fighting political corruption and combating drug cartel violence. He has been criticized in Mexico for not doing enough against the cartels where violent deaths have increased since his election.