Three Amigos summit: Awkward conversations for US with its neighbours – BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

If Joe Biden was looking for respite from the tricky global challenges he has faced in recent months, he may not find harmony closer to home. The leaders of US, Canada and Mexico are meeting on Thursday in Washington, with plenty differences to resolve.

It is the first such gathering since 2016. Talks are expected to focus on migration, Covid-19, and trade subsidies, among other issues.

At the White House, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador praised the “new era” in relations with the US, and noted the respectful relationships between past US and Mexican presidents.

Speaking to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier, Mr Biden said: “This is one of the easiest relationships that we have.”

Our correspondents in Toronto, New York and Mexico City give their perspectives on this year’s so-called Three Amigos summit.


By Robin-Levinson King, Toronto

There are many things that America and Canada agree upon – but one area of disagreement seems to be drawing the most focus.

In a White House appearance ahead of their formal talks, Prime Minister Trudeau and President Biden reiterated their close alignment on climate change and the pandemic. But it was a reporter’s question about Mr Biden’s proposed tax cut on electric vehicles (EVs) that exposed a major fault line in their relationship.

Mr Biden wants to give Americans a big tax credit to buy EVs – but only if they’re made in the US.

This could mean Canada, which supplies billions of dollars-worth of parts a year to the US auto industry, will get cut out. Earlier today, Mr Trudeau said he was “a little bit concerned” about the credits, but did comment on the matter to reporters.

Mr Biden said the issue is not settled, since the credit is attached to his $1tn (£741bn) social spending bill, which is still before Congress. “We’re going to talk about that,” he said.


By Laura Trevelyan, New York correspondent

What the US really wants from Mexico is more control of migration at the southern border.

Since President Biden’s inauguration, US border agents have made a record 1.3 million arrests of migrants trying to cross into America – and the American public has noticed, with Republicans accusing Democrats of pursuing a policy of open borders, and public approval of President Biden’s handling of immigration underwater.

Ever since candidate Donald Trump’s rallying cry of build a wall with Mexico, the US-Mexico border has been an extremely potent political issue, and one where Democrats are vulnerable. Conservative cable news coverage of the caravans of migrants from Central America heading through Mexico to the US border are a constant headache for the White House.

Media caption,

Life after deportation: ‘I am living the Mexican dream’

So when President Lopez Obrador meets President Biden in Washington, it’s hard not to imagine Mr Biden noting with approval that the number of migrants taken into US custody along the border decreased for the third consecutive month in October. More of the same, please, Mr Biden might tell his Mexican counterpart.

Looking ahead to the first summit between these three in five years, the US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar underlined its importance.

“The North American continent holds the keys to the future of the world, in terms of functioning democracies and economies. Our strategic alliances and imperatives for the US are much more closely tied to Mexico and its thriving future, and Canada and its thriving future, than they are to China.”


By Will Grant, Mexico City

While the body language around the first meeting of its kind in five years was warm, there may have been some bruising conversations for the Mexican President behind the smiles.

Immigration remains the dominant issue whenever the two sides meet at present. But there were trade wrangles to discuss too.

A group of seven Democratic lawmakers wrote to Mr Biden ahead of his meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador – or Amlo, as he’s known in Mexico – to raise their concerns over Mexico’s energy laws.

They cited “a slew of administrative and regulatory actions against private investors”, saying President López Obrador has “spearheaded major amendments” to two energy law in favour of state-run firms and against private companies.

Others in the House of Representatives and Senate wanted Mexico to be tackled over human rights abuses being perpetrated by the security forces.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

US President Joe Biden (right) meets with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the Oval Office

And the Homeland Security Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, chose this moment to announce a Federal Officers and Employees Protection Act which “ensures US criminal law applies extraterritorially to those who serve the United States and its territories overseas”.

Amid much mutual mistrust, the Amlo administration has refused to grant visas to numerous DEA agents and some interpret the new act as a clear message to Mexico that DEA agents and others will be protected by the US, regardless of any Mexican intransigence over their paperwork.

Good to be in the same room after five years away then, but much still to solve between Mexico and its neighbours to the north.