By Maria Peña
GUADALAJARA, Mexico – The North American Leaders Summit concluded on Monday with no grand pronouncements, but with expressions of mutual support and cooperation on trade, immigration, battling illegal drugs and coping with the swine-flu epidemic.
While U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also discussed clean energy and climate change, “narcoviolence,” migration and potential trade frictions dominated the talks in the colonial city of Guadalajara.
During an hour-long press conference at the conclusion of the meeting, Obama repeated what he told Efe and other Spanish-language media last Friday in Washington: that he hopes a draft bill on immigration reform will be ready by year’s end and that Congress will begin debate on the matter early in 2010.
He said the quest to provide a path to legalization for the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrations – most of them Mexicans – would have to wait until after lawmakers deal with proposed reforms in health care, energy and financial regulation.
Obama, Calderon and Harper presented a united front against protectionism, and the U.S. head of state said that the “Buy American” mandate in Washington’s economic stimulus plan has done nothing to reduce trade among the three nations.
The three leaders also pledged coordinated action to spur economic growth in Canada, Mexico and the United States, which, thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, constitute the world’s largest trade bloc.
Regarding the U.S.-Mexico agenda, Obama stressed his support for the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative – aimed at bolstering the battle against drugs in Mexico and Central America – and for Calderon’s efforts on that score, even though human rights groups have criticized the Mexican president’s militarized approach to the problem.
“I have great confidence in President Calderon’s administration applying the law enforcement techniques that are necessary to curb the power of the cartels, but doing so in a way that’s consistent with human rights,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question.
“The biggest, by far, violators of human rights right now are the cartels themselves that are kidnapping people and extorting people and encouraging corruption in these regions,” he added.
The drug-war strife that has claimed some 15,000 lives in Mexico since Calderon took office in December 2006 is a matter of great concern to Washington, especially given reports that Mexican cartels are already operating in 230 U.S. cities.
The meeting in Guadalajara served as a prelude for next month’s G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the debate is expected to center on how to reform global financial institutions. USA's Obama, Canada's Harper & Mexico's Calderon Declaration on Swine Flu
Joint Statement by USA's Obama, Mexico's Calderon & Canada's Harper