Thursday, July 25, 2024

AMLO and Chinese President Xi talk fentanyl at their first in-person meeting

President López Obrador and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed to strengthening bilateral ties between Mexico and China during a meeting in San Francisco on Thursday at which Mexico’s leader also raised the thorny issue of fentanyl trafficking.

During their first-ever face-to-face meeting, López Obrador and Xi “welcomed the progress of the bilateral relationship in recent years on the political, economic, educational, cultural and cooperation fronts, and confirmed their willingness to revitalize the ties that … [have] existed for more than five decades,” the Mexican government said in a statement.

Roughly 20 national leaders sit at a large round table with screens behind them.
National leaders gather at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in San Francisco. (Facebook @SREMX)

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit, attended by officials from the organization’s 21 member economies.

The Chinese Embassy in Mexico published a Spanish translation of a report on the meeting by official Chinese state news agency Xinhua that noted that Xi said that the friendship between Mexico and China is strengthening and that their relationship has become “more strategic, complementary and mutually beneficial.”

China is Mexico’s second largest trading partner after the United States, and the two countries entered into a “comprehensive strategic partnership” a decade ago.

The Xinhua report — effectively a Chinese government statement — said that China attaches “great importance” to the bilateral relationship and is willing to work with Mexico to “strengthen the coordination of strategies, explore the potential for cooperation and bring … complementarity into play to take bilateral relations to a higher level.”

A giant panda next to a piñata that reads "Xin Xin, Feliz Cumple"
Giant pandas have been an important player in Chinese diplomacy for years. Though the Mexico City Zoo’s 33-year-old panda Xin Xin is one of few zoo pandas not owned by China, Chinese diplomats regularly help celebrate milestones like her birthday this past July. (Mario Jasso/

According to the Mexican government statement, López Obrador “mentioned the challenges shared by both countries, and the need to exchange information and lessons learned in the fight against the illicit trafficking of precursor chemicals” used to manufacture fentanyl.

He emphasized “the importance of reaching an agreement to exchange information on shipments leaving Asia,” it added.

The statement also said that Xi “welcomed the recent creation of the Mexico-China Working Group on Precursor Chemicals and Counter-Narcotics Cooperation.”

The meeting came seven months after López Obrador revealed that he had written to his Chinese counterpart to seek his support in the fight against fentanyl after a group of United States lawmakers requested that he ask China not to send the synthetic opioid and precursor chemicals to Mexico, the United States and Canada.

A uniformed member of the military examines a PVC tube near bags of blue and white pills.
The National Guard found these fentanyl and methamphetamine pills hidden a shipment of PVC pipes in Sonora in August. (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Civil)

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson subsequently declared that “there is no such thing as illegal trafficking of fentanyl between China and Mexico.”

The Chinese government has now accepted that fentanyl is shipped abroad from China, and Xi and United States President Biden agreed at a meeting on Wednesday that China would work to stem the export of goods related to the production of fentanyl, which is largely responsible for the overdose crisis in the U.S.

The Xinhua report said that China and Mexico should ramp up cooperation in a range of areas, including anti-narcotic efforts.

“The two parties should make good use of intergovernmental work mechanisms … to deepen cooperation in traditional areas like infrastructure construction, … emerging sectors like finance and electric vehicles and … the application of the anti-narcotics law,” it said.

Among the other topics discussed at Thursday’s meeting between López Obrador and Xi was China’s willingness to assist the response to Hurricane Otis in Guerrero.

“The two leaders agreed to give top priority to strengthening their cooperation to address the impact of the hurricane in Guerrero, in order to provide relief to the families affected as soon as possible,” the Mexican government said.

Hotels in Acapulco
The leaders discussed the possibility of China aiding in relief efforts in Acapulco, the resort city recently devastated by Hurricane Otis. (Galo Cañas/

Xi, according to Xinhua, “once again” conveyed his condolences “for the recent hurricane disaster on the Pacific coast of Mexico and said that China will provide substantial assistance to Mexico in the procurement of materials in response to the disaster.”

The Xinhua report also noted that the 10th anniversary of the CELAC-China Forum — which facilitates dialogue between China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States — will be celebrated next year. China — which has extended its Belt and Road Initiative to many Latin American countries — “is willing to work with Mexico to promote relations between China and Latin America in order to take lasting steps in the new era,” Xinhua said.

“… Both Mexico and China protect their independence and autonomy and are resolutely opposed to interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” the report added.

“Mexico, as always, will adhere to friendly policies and firm mutual support with China, offer ease of investment for Chinese companies in Mexico, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in different fields and cooperate in the fight against the production and trafficking of drugs,” Xinhua said.

Neither the Mexican government statement nor the Xinhua report mentioned any discussion about lithium. It was reported earlier this year that the Mexican government had canceled lithium mining concessions held by a Chinese company in Mexico, but López Obrador subsequently said that the cancellation of the concessions was still under consideration.

Mexico’s nationalized lithium reserves could potentially come up in another round of face-to-face talks in the near future, as López Obrador invited Xi to visit Mexico “in the coming months,” according to the Mexican government.

A phone with the back taken off to reveal a lithium battery
AMLO and Xi did not publicly mention the elephant in the room: Mexico’s cancellation of a Chinese’ company’s lithium mining permits. Lithium is an increasingly valuable mineral due to it’s role in making lightweight rechargeable batteries. (Tyler Lastovich/Unsplash)

On social media on Thursday, the Mexican president said that he and Xi had “reiterated the commitment to continue maintaining good relations for the benefit of our people and our nations.”

According to a social media post by China’s ambassador to Mexico, Zhang Run, Xi noted that he visited Mexico in 2013 and told López Obrador that he was “deeply impressed by the splendid and ancient cultural history and the warm and hospitable people.”

The Chinese president also congratulated López Obrador on “making progress on reforms and innovations” and “achieving important results in the national development process.”

“… I’m willing to work with you to provide continuity to the traditional friendship [between China and Mexico] … and take the relations between the two countries to a new level,” Xi said.

Mexico News Daily 

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