In addition to trade, migrants and arms trafficking will be on the agenda at the first face-to-face meeting between President López Obrador and United States President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday.
The main purpose of the summit is to celebrate the July 1 entry into force of the new North American free trade pact, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he won’t attend the Washington D.C. summit.
López Obrador, who will fly commercial to the U.S. capital today, said Monday that discussion of migrants will be an “important part” of his meeting with Trump. He said he will advocate for the “respectful treatment” of Mexicans who live in the United States, a cohort which includes the so-called “dreamers,” undocumented migrants who entered the U.S as children.
“I’m going to represent [migrants], I’m going to speak about them. They won’t be ignored,” López Obrador said
The newspaper El Financiero reported that in addition to the USMCA and the issue of migration, the two leaders will speak about operation “Frozen,” a joint Mexico-United States effort to freeze the illegal movement of guns between the two countries.
The president said last week that he could raise with Trump the decade-old “fast and furious” gun-running sting, in which the United States government allowed people to buy guns illegally in the U.S. and smuggle them into Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and law enforcement officials could locate and arrest crime bosses.
For its part, the White House said in a statement that Trump will welcome López Obrador to Washington “as part of their continued partnership on trade, health, and other issues central to regional prosperity and security.”
López Obrador said Monday that he will visit the Lincoln Memorial and the memorial to former Mexican president Benito Juárez on Wednesday morning before meeting with Trump and other U.S. officials at the White House in the afternoon and evening.
President Trump will host a dinner Wednesday night at his official residence to be attended by the Mexican government delegation as well as a select group of Mexican businessmen who are also members of López Obrador’s business advisory council.
López Obrador said he will stay at the Mexican Embassy during his visit to Washington, his first overseas trip since he took office in late 2018. He is expected to return to Mexico on Thursday.
The president has come under fire for agreeing to meet with Trump, who some people believe will use him as an electoral prop.
But López Obrador justified the visit by saying that the visit was in Mexico’s interests and that a new era of respect in the bilateral relationship began when he took office.
However, the depth of the respect was questioned just hours later when Trump on Monday tweeted images of himself inspecting a section of newly-built wall on the border between the United States and Mexico, raising speculation that he could seek to discuss its funding with the Mexican president.
López Obrador said Tuesday morning that security would likely be on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting but he declined to say what Mexico’s position would be on the border wall issue. He pledged that he would not enter into any agreements that are harmful to Mexico.
“We’re different [from past governments] so there’s nothing to fear. On the contrary, this meeting will help us,” López Obrador said.
The president also revealed that he had tested negative for Covid-19, a prerequisite for meeting with Trump, adding that it would be irresponsible to travel to the U.S. and meet with officials if he were sick.
López Obrador has previously refused to take a Covid-19 test despite having been in contact with government officials who tested positive.
His trip to the United States has been criticized by some political pundits, former government officials and everyday Mexicans, who point out that Trump has a long history of insulting Mexico, but a recent poll showed that 59% of respondents are in favor of the bilateral meeting.
Opposition lawmakers have also weighed into the debate over the merits of the meeting, and urged López Obrador not to allow Trump to dictate terms.
National Action Party Deputy Luis Mendoza Acevedo demanded that opposition party officials and business leaders be allowed to participate in the discussions with U.S. officials or at least observe them, while Verónica Juárez, leader of the Democratic Revolution Party in the lower house of Congress, declared that the “bilateral relationship cannot be subjected to Trump’s dictations.”
“Our country has to recover an autonomous, responsible, caring and sovereign foreign policy,” Juárez said, adding that López Obrador mustn’t allow Trump to use him to his electoral advantage.
She urged López Obrador to raise the illegal arms trafficking issue, highlighting that some 2,000 weapons enter Mexico on a daily basis and end up in the hands of violent criminals. Juárez also said that Mexico must raise its concerns about the drug trade, namely the ongoing high demand for narcotics in the United States.
Citizens Movement party Senator Clemente Castañeda said that López Obrador has an obligation to advocate for the defense of the human rights of Mexican migrants in the United States.
“A historic opportunity will be lost” if he doesn’t raise the issue, Castañeda said, charging that the meeting with Trump will be a failure if the interests of migrants are not discussed.
The U.S. president’s immigration policies have increased persecution against migrants in the United States, he added.