The North American Leaders’ Summit: Real Change or Just Talk

By Gustavo A Maranges on January 12, 2023

Biden, AMLO, Trudeau photo: China Daily

The North American Leaders’ Summit recently ended in Mexico City with several analysts giving it a positive spin. The meeting took place in harmony, which not only speaks of the diplomatic efforts to avoid including the thorniest issues on the agenda but also of the respect, although begrudgingly, that the United States and Canada must have towards the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).

Some journalists base their analysis on Obrador’s friendly stance and how it represents a substantial change. Although it is an aspect to keep in mind, this time, content is more important than form, as hospitality and courtesy are characteristic elements not only of diplomacy but of Latin Americans in general.

The respectful and friendly exchange not only dismisses the comments about AMLO’s predisposition towards his North American partners but also shows that North-South cooperation with all the differences can be fruitful as long as national sovereignty is respected and impositions of any kind are avoided. A very difficult thing to do in these times, but undoubtedly one of AMLO’s merits.

The Summit’s agenda illustrates the priorities of the meeting. According to the statements of the respective Foreign Affairs Ministries, six key issues will be the focus of attention. However, judging by the outcome, the main reasons for the summit were migration, energy, and redesigning production chains.

Migration is one of the main issues on the bilateral agenda between the United States and Mexico. Two countries with a very intertwined relationship, and everyone knows that for any of Biden’s migratory to succeed it has to have Mexico’s buy in.  The Mexican president, who is known for his strong stance in defense of migrants’ rights, has made some headway in this arena, and this time was not the exception.

Canada’s role in this meeting was helpful since it has a better track record in migration and it of course could also benefit from Mexico’s positive experiences in inclusion and respect for indigenous peoples, which, in fact, was one of the bilateral exchange’s most relevant points.

In the frame of the Summit and as an example of joint efforts to achieve orderly migration, the United States ratified its commitment to fulfilling its $4 billion investment plan for Central America to mitigate the causes of migration. This is an initiative AMLO had long insisted on, although it remains unclear where, how much, and how the U.S. government is planning to allocate the resources. The three leaders also agreed to increase awareness of the legal pathways to migrate to the United States and Canada. A website will be launched for the sole purpose of being a support platform for migrants.

Biden’s recent measures did not go unnoticed at the Summit, and the host reminded him that the economic blockade suffered by Cuba and Venezuela is also part of the causes of the current migratory crisis he is facing. In that alone AMLO advocated for the elimination of the sanctions affecting these countries, which will ultimately benefit the U.S. too.

Arbitrarily depriving these states of the necessary resources to improve their people’s living conditions has brought nothing but problems to the entire region, including the U.S. As an example of how much can be done if this reality were to change, Obrador mentioned how his administration’s social and welfare programs have succeeded in helping to reduce the number of Mexican migrants.

The leaders also agreed that managing migration in the region will positively impact the reduction of drug, arms, people trafficking, and organized crime in general, which was another agenda point.

On energy matters, Mexico changed its initial position towards the Gulf of Mexico gas pipeline, a project passed by the former administration in 2016. The Canadian company TransCanada got the license to build the gas pipeline for US $550 million, something AMLO once called “onerous.” However, in the framework of the summit, he expressed his approval, which settled one of the most difficult issues in the economic bilateral agenda.

The three presidents agreed on the need to speed up the energy matrix revolution by promoting clean energy production, which is an essential step to mitigate climate change’s effects. In line with this, Mexico and the United States agreed to give free way to the Sonora Plan, which intends to supply electric vehicles made in Sonora to the State of Arizona. Beyond the economic benefit, the plan will serve as an experiment to expand the presence of Mexican-made electric vehicles in the U.S. market.

There was also pledge to support a strategy to increase regional semiconductors production. Immediate actions should be carried out, including tripartite meetings to support researchers and producers in this industry. Chip production is a key element in the economic development of any economy’s sector these days, and the region is highly dependent on Chinese supplies of this item.

The automotive industry, for example, requires around 1,000 chips for a conventional car, while an electric one demands almost twice as many. Therefore, beyond the economic benefit of companies, creating new jobs, and developing the high-tech sector, it aims at strengthening technological sovereignty.

Mexico, a major producer of parts and components for the U.S. car industry, could benefit from high-tech transfers, which will also give momentum to its flourishing electric car industry. Meanwhile, the United States and Canada are banking on that these plans will reduce their dependence on China.

What happens now? Well only time will tell.  Despite the commitments made and the mutual flattery typical at this level of diplomacy, little can be assured. Obviously this summit raised serious issues that need a real action plan but everyone knows that for the US anything that happens South of the Rio Grande will only be implemented if it seems advantageous in regaining their hegemony to what it once was. AMLO came into this meeting with a strong hand of cards including Mexico’s vast resources. He was able to once again demand that Mexico be treated on equal footing and with respect… something unheard of in previous Mexican administrations.

Source: Resumen  Latinoamericano – US