Immigration and Free Trade: U.S. Progress Weak With Canada and Mexico



President Barack Obama met with Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday to discuss a new trade deal, immigration, and a number of other issues — but it seems to have made weak headway. The meeting is being referred to as the “Three Amigos” summit meeting, and agreements were made on easier travel between nations as well as on cooperation for conservation efforts for the Monarch butterfly. But despite all that, the big issues of the day saw only weak results.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been a controversial subject in the United States, and one that Obama has not been eager to jump on board with — a trend that continued at the meeting held in President Nieto’s hometown of Toluca, Mexico. Prime Minister Harper was likely hoping for the President to engage him on the plan, however, Obama passed over the subject, according to the New York Times. As to the massive free trade agreement — which would involve eleven other nations, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Japan — Obama did admit that many in Congress, including his own party members, are not on board with the agreement as of yet. “We’ll get this passed if it’s a good agreement,” he said. The issue of immigration went in much the same way, and according to the New York Times, the joint statement agreed upon by all three utilized the word “continue to” no less than eight times — not the most hopeful rhetoric for major action.

Jay Carney, Press Secretary to the President, spoke on his behalf Wednesday regarding the trade agreement. “The President has made clear that expanding American exports and trade, especially in the Pacific region, is a priority. And the reason for that is that there’s enormous growth and opportunity in that region,” said Carney. He spoke on the disagreement in Congress, saying that, “This is an issue around which there is not a uniform point of view in either party. And the President has long understood that this is nothing new, especially for those of us who have been around Washington for more than 20 years.”

Of course, Obama wasn’t the only one facing criticism from his two fellow amigos and countrymen, as President Nieto avoided the topic of drug violence that is a major issue in Mexico at the moment, while missing the opportunity to push Obama on the immigration, according to the New York Times, taking flack from Mexican journalists such as Carlos Puig in an article entitled “Lo que Pena no le dira a Obama” or “What Pena won’t tell Obama.”

As to what did get done during the rather brief visit, the White House released a fact sheet of “Key Deliverables,” a list of the more tangible decisions. These included a new North American Trusted Traveler Program, making it easier for those who often travel between the three nations to do so. They also created a Trilateral Research, Development and Innovation Council for “encouraging opportunities for North American leadership and a trilateral network of entrepreneurs.” Educational exchanges will be improved and trade data will be combined in order to make business easier between countries. Tourism and freight planning are also looking at improvement efforts.

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