'Three Amigos' Summit in Mexico takes on migration and fentanyl crises

Talks between US, Canadian and Mexican leaders focus on building strong North American economy

From left, President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet at the National Palace in Mexico City. AP
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The leaders of the US, Mexico and Canada came together in Mexico City on Tuesday for the North American Leaders Summit, reaffirming their commitment to building a strong regional economy and solving the migration crisis.

US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were hosted by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for the first trilateral “Three Amigos” Summit since 2021.

“As a continent, we are unique,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during remarks on Tuesday evening. “We are three large democracies. committed to freedom, human rights, equality, and creating real opportunity for everyone.”

The economy and semiconductors

“The top of our shared agenda today is keeping the North America the most competitive, prosperous and resilient economic region of the world,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Lopez Obrador concurred and added that the allies would be setting up a joint committee focused on working to make North America more self-sufficient.

Part of that self-sufficiency is the production of semiconductors, with the White House saying that the three leaders had discussed the aim of creating a semiconductor forum, which would help the industry “adapt government policies and increase investment in … supply chains across North America”.

“Today we discussed how we can build reliable value chains on this continent for everything from critical minerals to electric vehicles to semiconductors,” Mr Trudeau said. “This is good for workers, good for consumers, good for communities across our countries.”

Semiconductor shortages caused by high demand and low supply have been exacerbated by supply chain problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading countries to scramble to find ways to ameliorate the current problems and avoid future ones.

Mexico's hopes of benefiting from the push to boost regional semiconductor production have been undermined by an ongoing energy dispute, with the US and Canada beginning formal dispute settlement proceedings against Mexico's policies in July, Reuters reported.

The spat, which centres on Mexico's efforts to give priority to its cash-strapped energy companies at the expense of private investors, has been closely watched at the summit.

Clean energy and the environment

During his remarks, Mr Biden emphasised the need to make North America a “clean energy powerhouse”, while meeting “our ambitious commitments under the Paris Agreement, including tackling methane and black carbon”.

Mr Trudeau agreed, saying: “We should all be part of climate action, government and private sector should work together, it to attain the 2030 goals and objectives.”

Discussions on the environment focused on clean energy production, with the leaders expressing their commitment to reducing methane emissions and food waste, developing the installation of EV chargers along international borders, and co-operating to conserve 30 per cent of the world's land and ocean area.

Mr Biden campaigned on making the climate a priority and has backed that up by rejoining the 2015 Paris Agreement and restoring environmental safeguards.

Though Mr Trudeau has also made a series of promises to put more focus on the environment, Canada has failed time and again to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Mr Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, has pushed for clean-energy agreements with the US, including plans for solar power stations in the north of the country, but at the same time slashing funding for the government's climate-focused agencies.

Climate change around the world — in pictures

Migration and drug trafficking

One of the biggest items on the summit agenda — for the US and Mexico in particular — was that of migration, an issue that has been a thorn in the side of the Biden and the Lopez Obrador administrations.

Mr Lopez Obrador thanked Mr Biden for building “not one more metre of wall” along the US southern border and also praised Mr Trudeau's policy of extending temporary work visas to 25,000 Mexicans.

Both Mr Biden and Mr Lopez Obrador spoke at length on the subject of migration along the US-Mexico border, where tens of thousand of migrants attempt to enter the US every year.

“Peace is the result of justice,” the Mexican President said. “Social problems cannot be solved only with coercion measures” and a humanitarian approach to the crisis was paramount.

Migrants from Central America and the Caribbean enter Mexico through its southern border, overwhelming understaffed border crossings as they move towards the US, where many then attempt to claim asylum.

During the summit, “the leaders of North America reaffirmed their commitment to work together to achieve safe, orderly and humane migration in the region”, the White House said.

TikTok star helps migrants cross US border — video

TikTok star helps migrants cross US border

TikTok star helps migrants cross US border

“In particular, the United States, Mexico and Canada will continue to champion expansion of legal pathways and other humane measures to address irregular migration in the region,” including virtual platforms giving would-be immigrants streamlined access to legal pathways and “countering xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and refugees”.

Closely connected to migration are the issues of drug trafficking and people smuggling, and the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to co-operation and information-sharing to combat illegal activity.

“In just the last six months, our joint patrols in Mexico have resulted in the rest of more than 7,000 human smugglers,” Mr Biden said. “We've seized more than 20,000 pounds of deadly fentanyl.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, Mexico is a leading producer of fentanyl, with criminal organisations producing “wholesale quantities” of the drug, which are then smuggled into the US.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine.

Mexico's drug-linked violence has grown to epidemic proportions over the years, with more than 31,000 homicides reported in the country last year, many of them suspected to have been connected to the drug trade.

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Updated: January 11, 2023, 9:22 PM