Published: 12:00, March 3, 2021 | Updated: 23:57, June 4, 2023
Immigration, COVID-19 headline talks between Biden, AMLO
By Agencies Via Xinhua

An asylum-seeker has an emotional reunion with immigration worker Kathy Harrington upon his arrival in the United States on Friday in Brownsville, Texas. (PHOTO / AFP)

WASHINGTON-US President Joe Biden told his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that Mexico's success was crucial to the hemisphere and he would view the southern neighbor as an equal.

In a virtual summit to discuss immigration, COVID-19 and commercial issues, Biden opened talks by reminding Lopez Obrador of his four visits to Mexico as vice-president.

Lopez Obrador thanked Biden for stressing a relationship based on mutual respect, and emphasized the two countries' cultural, historic and trade ties

"The United States and Mexico are stronger when we stand together," Biden said at the beginning of their teleconference. But "we haven't been perfect neighbors to each other."

During the (Barack) Obama-Biden administration, he continued: "We looked at Mexico as an equal. You are equal."

Lopez Obrador thanked Biden for stressing a relationship based on mutual respect, and emphasized the two countries' cultural, historic and trade ties.

"It is important for Mexico, and we must keep on cooperating for further development based on independence and autonomy, potentializing what our peoples mean to us," he said.

READ MORE: Mexico's president 'expected to ask Biden to share US vaccines’

It was Biden's second bilateral meeting with a foreign leader since becoming president on Jan 20. The first was with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The talks came after four years of tumultuous US-Mexico relations under former president Donald Trump, who shut down the US border to migration, tore up the NAFTA trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada, and labeled Mexican immigrants drug traffickers and "rapists".

Still, the flow of migrants and trade-both legal and illegal-across the US-Mexican border was to be the focus of the summit.

Joining the call were top diplomatic, security, and immigration officials from both sides.

ALSO READ: Population of Mexico's monarch butterflies falls 26%

Eased policy

The meeting came amid reports of a new surge of undocumented migrants attempting to enter the US from Mexico and its southern neighbors, as Biden eases Trump's tough anti-immigration policy.

In a joint statement after the call, the two sides agreed to work together on economic development efforts in impoverished southern Mexico and Central America, the source of most of the migrants.

They also agreed to work together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, to boost economic cooperation, and work together on climate change, the statement said.

The two countries share a porous, nearly 3,200-kilometer border, with hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of commerce annually and large numbers of daily legal crossings by individuals.

But it also sees a huge level of illegal migrant crossing, hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers trying to enter the US, and large amounts of illicit drug trafficking from south to north.

The statement said nothing specific about how cooperation on the coronavirus pandemic would proceed.

Mexico has one of the world's highest death tolls from the disease, after the US and Brazil, and desperately needs a larger supply of vaccines.

Before the video conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday downplayed the prospect of sharing coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying the government is focused first on getting its own population protected from an epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 people.

"The administration's focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated. And once we accomplish that objective, we're happy to discuss further steps," Psaki said.