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Obama to meet with Latin America leaders at summits May 2-4

 mexico president

by Joseph Earnest May 1, 2013  

Newscast Media WASHINGTONBarack Obama travels to Mexico and Costa Rica May 2–4 to meet with his counterparts from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic to talk about strengthening ties, especially economic ones.

When he sits down with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City, U.S.-Mexican trade will occupy a big part of the discussions.

"This is a massive trading partner responsible for huge amounts of commerce and huge numbers of jobs on both sides of the border. We want to see how we can deepen that, how we can improve that and maintain that economic dialogue over a long period of time," Obama said April 30.

The president said security cooperation, which has dominated the U.S.-Mexico relationship in recent years, will continue to be a key issue. Peña Nieto "indicated to me that he very much continues to be concerned about how we can work together to deal with transnational drug cartels," Obama said.

U.S. officials briefing reporters about the president’s trip said Obama will bring up education and energy as specific areas to deepen cooperation. On May 3, Obama will address a gathering of Mexican university students on economic ties as well as educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

"There are so many ties of family and culture and commerce across the border, and the president will be speaking to how both nations benefit from those ties," according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

Obama is traveling at a time when the U.S. Congress is engaged in a debate about reforming the U.S. immigration system, which affects many people in the United States with ties to Mexico and Central America. Rhodes said the president will address the immigration issue from both economic and legal perspectives.

“Economic development in Mexico will also ultimately get at the root cause of illegal immigration to the United States, so that’s another benefit of the economic growth underway in Mexico. Similarly, both the United States and Mexico benefit from the legal immigration that is a hallmark of the relationship between our two countries,” Rhodes said.

When Obama arrives in San Jose, Costa Rica, May 3, he will confer at a summit with the presidents of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

In his April 30 press conference, Obama said those countries are important partners for the United States because they share the vision "that we want to make sure that our hemisphere is more effectively integrated to improve the economy and security of all people."

Similar to his talks in Mexico, Obama will emphasize economic issues.

Ricardo Zuniga, a special assistant to the president for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in addition to trade and investment among the countries in the Dominican Republic–Central America–United States Free Trade Agreement, Obama will press for economic integration within that region. He said the president will address that issue from the energy angle.

"Energy costs in Central America are about two to three times higher than they are in the United States, for example, and one objective of those governments is to try to reduce those costs to be more competitive. So we want to talk about what we can do on that front," Zuniga said.

The economic trends in Mexico and Central America as well as in all of Latin America are on the upswing, Zuniga said.

"It's a region that's seen a 50 percent increase in the middle classes over the last 10 years, 50 percent decrease in severe poverty," he said. "It's a very positive thing, and we want to encourage those trends as much as we can."     Add Comments>>











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