President Obama won the support of Mexico’s new president Thursday to control the flow of migrants and strengthen border security, measures that may give momentum to a pending overhaul of U.S. immigration laws before Congress.
Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, set a common goal of making North America “the most dynamic and competitive region in the world,” and portrayed controls on migration as vital for sustained joint economic growth.
“Our success is shared,” Obama said at a joint news conference with Peña Nieto hours after he set off on a three-day trip that also will take him to Costa Rica. “When one of us prospers, both of us prosper,” Obama said.
On other issues, Obama pledged to fight on for gun-control legislation despite a defeat in Congress last month and said he is “comfortable” with a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow 15-year-old girls to obtain emergency contraception over the counter.
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On Syria, he said his administration would “look at all options,” including providing lethal aid to the opposition, with the goal that “every step we take advances the day when (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is gone.”
Meeting in the ornate National Palace, Obama and Peña Nieto said they had focused heavily on economic and trade issues in talks.
Matters of public security and cooperation in fighting organized crime, which dominated U.S.-Mexico relations for the past five years, took a secondary role at the behest of Peña Nieto, who since coming to office five months ago has vowed a different approach on security issues as he capitalizes on a new image of his nation as a rising economic power.
The two nations agreed to hold regular high-level economic talks. Vice President Joe Biden will lead the U.S. side in the first round this year, while the Mexican side will contain all Cabinet-level secretaries involved in trade, finance and development.
Peña Nieto emphasized that the vigor of the economy of Mexico, which is the No. 2 market for U.S. exports after Canada, has a direct bearing on U.S. workers.
Trade between the two countries totals about $1.4 billion a day, directly or indirectly supporting 6 million jobs in the U.S.
Peña Nieto, who brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party back to power after 12 years, said his government would work with U.S. authorities to strengthen security along the 1,960-mile border.
He h as voiced eagerness to shift ties with the United States away from an overwhelming emphasis on fighting crime.
The shift has caused some unease in the U.S. as Mexico has reshuffled its security apparatus and ended a practice of allowing U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to interact directly with their Mexican counterparts.
Now, those U.S. agencies must go through a single gatekeeper, the powerful Interior Secretariat.