Trump Hosts President López Obrador of Mexico to Spotlight Trade and Immigration
President Trump welcomed Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to the White House on Wednesday for meetings on trade, the economy and immigration — subjects far more compatible with Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign themes than the spreading coronavirus.
The meeting is meant to celebrate the official July 1 enactment of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement ratified by the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mr. Trump has cited the deal as a signature achievement, although economists say it will have marginal effects.
Mr. López Obrador has also played an important role in Mr. Trump’s relentless campaign to restrict immigration across the southern U.S. border, ordering more vigorous enforcement on Mexican territory to prevent border crossings into the United States.
And the visit — the second to the White House by a foreign leader since the coronavirus shutdown in March — provides a welcome distraction for Mr. Trump and Mr. López Obrador, who have both been criticized for inadequate responses to the pandemic.
The two leaders have little in common ideologically — Mr. López Obrador is an avowed leftist — but Mr. Trump has used America’s tremendous economic leverage, including threats of tariffs and even a total border closing, to pressure the Mexican leader.
Mr. López Obrador stylistically shares some of Mr. Trump’s bombast but eschews displays of wealth, including the use of a private presidential plane. He flew commercial to Washington from Mexico City on Tuesday, his first trip abroad since his landslide 2018 election, connecting through Atlanta.
After afternoon meetings, the leaders will sign a joint declaration before dining with Mexican and American business executives. A senior administration official said the event amounted to a state dinner “lite,” within the limits of coronavirus precautions.
On Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign issued a statement hailing the revised NAFTA deal, known as the U.S.M.C.A., calling it a “stark contrast” to “Joe Biden’s failed globalism.”
A Canadian spokeswoman said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had chosen not to travel to the United States this week to celebrate the U.S.M.C.A. because of a scheduling conflict with a session of Parliament on Wednesday. But relations between the Trump administration and Canadian officials have turned chilly since last month, when American officials said their Canadian counterparts must voluntarily restrain their own metal exports or face tariffs again.
The U.S.M.C.A. officially went into effect on July 1, but American officials have emphasized that both Mexico and Canada still fall short of fulfilling several of the pledges they made under the pact.
Trump administration officials have criticized Mexico’s continued refusal of American biotech products, like genetically modified corn, and its unfair treatment of American news media companies.
And Mexico has only partly carried out the major reforms to its labor system that the deal required, which were aimed at lifting wages and improving working conditions in Mexico, to put American and Canadian workers on more even footing with Mexican competitors.
Ana Swanson contributed reporting.