Today the “Three Amigos” wrapped up the annual two-day summit between Canada, Mexico, and the United States with a press conference in Guadalajara, Mexico. Expectations going into the summit were muted as the leaders mostly followed up on previously agreed upon measures rather than breakthrough negotiations over new issues. The three heads of state, President Calderon of Mexico, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, and President Obama, presented a happy trio at the press conference where they outlined the regional priorities agreed upon during their meetings.
The North American response to the economic crisis and efforts to increase regional competitiveness was a top priority for the leaders. Of special concern is the “protectionist wave sweeping the U.S.” Canada and Mexico would be especially hard hit by the “buy America” clause in the $787 billion stimulus package as they are our number one and three trading partners respectively. Mexico has the added grief of addressing the congressionally-imposed ban prohibiting the use of US highways by Mexican trucks. Hoping to ease the fears of our two closest neighbors, President Obama promised to “reject protectionism” and work to expand regional trade, not limit it.
Health and security were also top of the agenda with a special focus on the impeding return of the H1N1 virus (the virus formerly known as the swine flu) to the region. The three leaders committed their countries to working together to prepare for the coming flu season. When it comes to transnational issues such as global health, a regional approach is not only prudent, it is required.
Mexico’s war on drugs is another security matter of great concern for the region. Canada and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Calderon’s fight against the powerful drug cartels. President Obama was clear that human rights must not be sacrificed to win this fight, which touched on a sore spot between Mexico and the United States. The US Congress is currently withholding funds promised in plan Merida because of human rights concerns arising from harsh tactics used by the Mexican military.
The leaders also addressed climate change and energy concerns, each calling for agreement and action at the upcoming UN Climate Change conference to take place in Copenhagen later this year. President Obama hailed the example being set for other developing countries by Mexico’s actions to cut carbon emissions in a creative way that did not stifle economic growth.
An interesting point that came up in the Q&A portion of the press conference was the critique that the United States is not putting enough pressure on the government of Honduras to reseat ousted President Zelaya. In a response clearly aimed at Hugo Chavez, Obama stated, “The same critics who say the United States is not intervening enough in Honduras are the same that say we interfere too much and tell the Yankees to get out of Latin America. They can’t have it both ways.” President Calderon echoed this sentiment by stating that the United States is doing exactly what Latin America wants them to do, which is primarily to support regional organizations. It was, however, Prime Minister Harper that had the money quote of the day, “I’m just going to also weigh in a little bit, as a friend of the United States, on that question that was posed to President Obama. If I were an American, I would be really fed up with this kind of hypocrisy. You know, the United States is accused of meddling except when it’s accused of not meddling.”
— Faith Smith