Presidents Barack Obama of the United States
and Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico emphasized trade Thursday in a push
for broader cooperation beyond the immigration and security issues
that have long dominated their relations.
"Mexico and the United States have one of the largest, most dynamic relationships of any two countries on Earth," Obama told reporters at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City after talks with Pena Nieto.
"And yet, we don't hear enough about our extraordinary ties, because attention is often focused on one or two issues, such as security or immigration."
Pena Nieto took office in December seeking to reshape ties with the Mexico's neighbour to the north and biggest trade partner. During Thursday's start of Obama's two-day visit, the Mexican president called for "relations that are not single-themed" but multifaceted.
"We have reviewed the huge potential that lies in economic dialogue between Mexico and the United States," he said.
Both Obama and Pena Nieto stressed their economic interdependence.
"I believe we have an historic opportunity to foster even more cooperation, more trade, more jobs," Obama said. "That's the focus of my visit."
Mexico's growth is an important component in the immigration issue that has the two countries have traditionally shared.
"Our shared border is more secure than it's been in years. Illegal immigration attempts into the United States are near their lowest levels in decades, and legal immigration continues to make both our countries stronger, more prosperous and more competitive," Obama said.
"This, in part, reflects the economic progress and greater opportunities here in Mexico. I think this progress should help inform our debate in the United States, and I'm optimistic that we're finally going to pass comprehensive immigration reform" in the US.
The United States as "a nation of immigrants," he said, arguing that immigration reforms being debated in Congress would be a key element to improve business ties with Mexico.
"The importance of getting it done is precisely because we do so much business with each other," Obama said.
The two leaders discussed immigration and security, which Obama defined as "serious" and "urgent" challenges.
Obama acknowledged an important US role in helping to combat organized crime in Mexico, where more than 60,000 people have died in gang violence over the last six years.
"I also reaffirmed our determination in the United States to meet our responsibilities: to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash that help fuel violence," he said.
Obama said combatting drug gangs is a domestic Mexican issue but offered US assistance and vowed to step up actions on US soil that can help Mexico's fight against organized crime.
"Mexico has to deal with its problems internally, and we have to deal with ours as well," Obama said.
The centre-left Pena Nieto, whose conservative predecessor had made the war on gangs Mexico's top priority, spoke of a "new security strategy" that includes the need to reduce violence.
"Fighting organized crime and reducing violence are not incompatible with each other," he said.
Obama was to travel Friday to Costa Rica.
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