MEXICO CITY — Seeking to put a new spin on a long-standing partnership, President Barack Obama is promoting jobs and trade — not drug wars or border security — as the driving force behind the U.S.-Mexico relationship. But security concerns are shadowing his two-day visit, given Mexico’s recent moves to limit American law enforcement access within its borders.
Arriving in Mexico City on Thursday on his first trip to Latin America since winning re-election, Obama was met at the steps of his plane by an honor guard and a trumpeting bugler. He greeted top Mexican officials before heading to the National Palace for meetings with President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December. The two leaders were to speak at a joint news conference Thursday evening.
Obama is looking for more details from Pena Nieto about changes he is making to the robust security relationship between the neighboring countries. In a shift from his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, Pena Nieto has moved to end the widespread access U.S. security agencies have had in Mexico to help fight drug trafficking and organized crime.
The president and his advisers are saying they need to hear directly from the Mexican leader before making a judgment.
“With the new Mexican administration coming into office, it certainly stands to reason that President Pena Nieto would want to take a look at the nature of our cooperation,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “So we’re currently working with the Mexicans to evaluate the means by which we cooperate, the means by which we provide assistance.”
The White House, hoping to move the discussion surrounding the president’s trip beyond security, has emphasized in recent days a desire to boost economic ties to Mexico.
Mexico accounts for $500 billion in U.S. trade in 2001 and ranking as the second-largest export market for U.S. goods. A stronger Mexican economy would result in even more trade and job growth on both sides of the border, Obama aides say.