By Lucia Leal
Washington, Nov 18 (EFE).- Mexico asked the United States and Canada on Thursday to stop rejecting migrants because they are needed for economic growth, and proposed that the three countries design a common economic strategy to reduce dependence on Asian imports.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, US President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were meeting for the North American Leaders’ Summit at the White House.
“Migrants should not be rejected when growth requires a workforce that in reality is insufficient both in the United States and in Canada,” López Obrador said.
“For that reason, we should study the labor demand and open, in an orderly manner, the flow of migration.”
That message contrasted with the one Biden expressed during his earlier speech when he said that the three countries must “manage the challenge of unprecedented migration in our hemisphere.”
Biden has long assured that he wants to build a more humane immigration system, but his government continues to deport most of the undocumented migrants that arrive at the US’ southern border without giving them the opportunity to request asylum, based on a measure known as Title 42 and that his government used the Covid-19 pandemic to justify.
The White House has increased its contact with countries on the continent to try to contain the mass arrival of migrants to its Mexico border, and in September it had to manage a crisis due to the entry of thousands of Haitian immigrants, most of whom it deported to Port-au-Prince.
Despite his message to Biden about migratory flows, López Obrador thanked him for proposing on his first day in power to regularize the 11 million undocumented people estimated to live in the US, many of whom are Mexican.
“We are paying attention to this process and hope that Congress will give you the support that you need on behalf of both parties,” he added.
The immigration reform bill proposed by Biden is stalled in Congress, and other initiatives by Democrats to regularize undocumented migrants within the social spending package debated by the legislature have not gone ahead so far.
López Obrador raised the issue both in the trilateral meeting and in the one-on-one meeting that he held alone with Biden, and in another that he held earlier with the US Vice President Kamala Harris.
The other issue that the Mexican president put on the table was his desire to develop a regional economic strategy for North America to beat the productive and commercial expansion of China, and that in his opinion would involve more regional production, in a context of supply chain and inflation crises.
“Why can’t we produce in North America what we consume? Of course we can. It is a matter of definition and regional economic strategy,” López Obrador said.
“This involves jointly planning our development and promoting a program of productive investment in North America for import substitution.”
Neither Biden nor Trudeau responded to López Obrador’s proposal during the public portion of the meeting, but the three agreed on their willingness to strengthen economic and commercial ties on the basis of the T-MEC trilateral free-trade agreement.
The meeting came days after the US opened its borders with Mexico and Canada to non-essential travel.
Trudeau arrived at the summit concerned about a Biden plan to incentivize the purchase of US-made electric vehicles, included in a social spending bill pending approval in Congress, and the US president acknowledged that he is evaluating changes to please Canada.
The day also included the first bilateral in-person meeting between Biden and López Obrador, in which the US president assured the Mexican that they are “equal countries.”
López Obrador thanked Biden for not treating Mexico as the US’ “back yard,” and was grateful for the “treatment of respect.”