Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrado listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as they deliver statements prior to signing a joint declaration in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 8, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

On Wednesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited President Donald Trump at the White House to celebrate the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement on July 1. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not attend the conference, citing a conflicting cabinet meeting as the reason. 

When the meeting was first announced in June, some public policy scholars supported the move. “Mexican diplomacy consists of building bridges with all people,” said Director-General for North America of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Relations Roberto Velasco Alvarez. According to the White House, Mexico is the largest goods trading partner with the U.S., with officials citing “$1.6 billion worth of trade crosses our border, directly supporting American and Mexican businesses, jobs, and workers,” every day. 

Coronavirus cases across Mexico jumped 180% since reopening began on June 1. The state of Sonora, which borders Arizona and parts of New Mexico, closed its border to U.S. tourists over the 4th of July weekend to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from Arizona. Both presidents faced criticism ahead of the meeting. In the U.S., the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquín Castro (D-TX) and other lawmakers penned an open letter to Trump, saying the visit “is a blatant attempt to politicize the U.S.-Mexico relationship…” and criticized him for previous immigration actions. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany reported immigration “came up briefly.” 

In Mexico, citizens condemned President López Obrador for meeting with someone they “‘view as xenophobic, as racist, as a leader who has humiliated Mexicans. … By standing next to him, López Obrador validates those positions,’” according to Denise Dresser, a professor and political commentator in Mexico City. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Mexican president praises Trump at White House trade deal celebration – New York Post – 7/8/2020
Lopez Obrador, a veteran of leftist politics who is often compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, effusively praised Trump in the Rose Garden. “Thank you, President Trump, for being increasingly respectful to our Mexican fellow man,” he said through a translator. “To you, President Trump, I want to thank you for your understanding and the help you’ve given us in issues related to trade, commerce, oil, as well as your personal support for the acquisition of medical equipment that we needed urgently to treat our patients of COVID-19.”

Trump forgoes insults of past, calls Mexico cherished friend – Associated Press – 7/8/2020
With the U.S. looking to reduce its dependence on China for parts and supplies, Mexico is well-positioned to step into the void, though U.S. businesses have viewed some recent actions taken by the Mexican government as harmful to U.S. investors and say they undermine the framework of the USMCA. López Obrador didn’t publicly address U.S. business’ concerns.

Trump hosts Mexico’s president, an unlikely ally – Washington Post – 7/8/2020
The significance of López Obrador’s visit is expected to remain a mostly symbolic one. Analysts don’t see the leaders emerging from the proceedings with much more than what already has been accomplished. And even then, progress remains somewhat thin. […] The upshot of this summit, argued Genaro Lozano, a professor at Mexico City’s Iberoamerican University, may have little to do with the principals involved. “Both Republicans and Democrats need to take Mexico and the region as a whole more seriously,” he wrote in Americas Quarterly. “Integration between the two economies and societies is unstoppable and, if nothing else, Mexico should be a regular stop for U.S. presidential candidates, just as the U.S. is a stop for any Mexican presidential candidate.”

Trump meets Mexican president at White House, despite Democratic objections – Fox News – 7/8/2020
President Trump met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the White House on Wednesday in Lopez Obrador’s first foreign trip as president — and despite complaints from Democrats that the meeting was politically motivated.

Most Mexicans back president’s U.S. visit but dislike Trump, poll shows – Reuters – 7/2/2020
Lopez Obrador has tried to avoid conflict with Trump, and stresses that the two have a friendly relationship. The poll showed that the image of the United States in Mexico has improved sharply since Lopez Obrador took power 19 months ago.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Foreign Policy on Twitter, 7/9/2020: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s visit to Washington yesterday was an effort to placate the U.S. president whom he believes may play a vital role in the four years left of his term, Jose W. Fernandez writes.

aldianews on Twitter, 7/8/2020: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has been in office for 19 months, but his trip to Washington D.C. will be his first foreign visit as head of state. #AMLO #TRUMP

Frida Ghitis on Twitter, 7/9/2020: AMLO’s strange trip. Why is the Mexican president helping Trump win re-election. Mexicans want to know. My latest @WPReview

WBAP 24/7 NEWS on Twitter, 7/8/2020: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is making a visit to President Trump. Some of the topics expected will be discussed include USMCA, COVID-19, and making sure the relationship between the two countries remains unaffected. 

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