U.S./Mexico Presidents Pledge More Trade; No Wall

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By Rossella Brevetti

July 22 — President Barack Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto outlined a series of trade and commerce efforts, including pushing for approval of the trans-Pacific pact, they said would further cement cooperation between the trading partners.

The two presidents highlighted cooperative efforts and the need for global integration, rejecting calls from some to build a wall to slow immigration from Mexico to the U.S.

They also agreed to make permanent a forum for cabinet-level discussions on economic competitiveness, trade and commerce; implement the bilateral Air Transport Agreement; continue work on sharing border crossing information to assist travelers; beef up border crossing infrastructure projects; and reduce black carbon emissions.

TPP Strengthens NAFTA

Provisions in the trans-Pacific trade agreement would make an already “extraordinarily strong” U.S. economic relationship with Mexico even stronger, Obama said.

Obama spoke July 22 at a joint news conference with Nieto, who said through an interpreter, that the pending TPP provides an opportunity to update the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement after member countries have had more than 20 years of experience with NAFTA.

“One of the values of TPP is that we've learned from our experiences in NAFTA what's worked, what hasn't, where we can strengthen it,” Obama said. A number of TPP provisions address criticisms of NAFTA, Obama said.

Both countries are working to ratify TPP “as soon as possible,” according to a White House fact sheet.

Wall Trumped

The meeting comes one day after the conclusion of the Republican convention, where Republican nominee Donald Trump reiterated his pledge to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration. Trump has also called for the U.S. to exit NAFTA and to abandon any plans to ratify the trans-Pacific pact. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, have opposed TPP as currently written.

Globalization is a fact that “we're not going to be able to build a wall around,” Obama told reporters. Instead, what can be done is to shape how global integration proceeds “so that it's increasing opportunity for ordinary people,” he said.

The leaders agreed to make permanent the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue—a forum for cabinet-level discussions aimed at boosting economic competitiveness and improving trade and commerce between the two countries. “Through forums like our high-level economic dialogue, we're going to keep working to boost trade and grow our economies and create more opportunity for our people,” Obama said.

The leaders also agreed to implement the bilateral Air Transport Agreement, which will benefit U.S. and Mexican airlines, travelers, businesses, airports and communities by increasing opportunities for passenger and cargo flights between the two countries, the White House said.

The U.S. and Mexico are working on a pilot program to share border crossing information so that a traveler’s entry into one country will be recorded as an exit from the other. Both countries will work on improving pilot programs for cargo pre-inspection at the Laredo International Airport in Laredo, Texas, and the Mexican customs facilities at Mesa de Otay, Baja California. By spring 2017, a third pilot program will be launched in San Jeronimo, Chihuahua, according to the fact sheet. Pena Nieto said such inspection programs reduce costs up to 50 percent.

The two countries also committed to using data-driven processes to prioritize border crossing infrastructure projects. Each country plans to develop reference guides identifying options to finance ports of entry on each side of the border. These efforts will improve border infrastructure processes, according to the White House fact sheet.

Obama and Pena Nieto last met June 29 at a summit hosted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canada (126 ITD, 6/30/16).

Building on climate commitments made at the summit, Obama and Pena Nieto agreed to discuss strategies and actions to reduce black carbon emission and other short-lived climate pollutants. The first meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Energy Business Council will take place in the fall of 2016. Before February 2017, the governments will also host a clean energy investment roundtable or trade mission, according to the fact sheet.

Obama said the countries would continue working toward the goal announced in Ottawa of generating half the electricity in North America through clean power by 2025.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rossella Brevetti in Washington at rbrevetti@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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