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President Biden is in Mexico for a summit of North American leaders


President Biden is in Mexico for a summit of North American leaders. It's the first time a U.S. president has visited the country since former President Barack Obama attended the summit nine years ago.


Biden was received in Mexico City last night by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Now, they plan to spend the next couple of days meeting with each other and with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And migration is likely to be a top issue.

FADEL: So we're going to go to NPR's Eyder Peralta, who's in Mexico City. Good morning, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: OK. So broadly, what is the objective of this summit? What do these leaders hope to achieve?

PERALTA: You know, these meetings are jokingly called a meeting of the three amigos. But I spoke to Julian Ventura, who used to be the deputy foreign secretary under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. And he said, don't let that moniker fool you. Let's listen.

JULIAN VENTURA: It's a massive three-way relationship. You know, North America accounts for one-third of global GDP. It's a trading superpower.

PERALTA: And this summit is happening in the shadow of the pandemic, when supply chains from China have been disrupted and the relationship between China and the West is so strained. So there will be, no doubt, a lot of talk about nearshoring, which is getting stuff built in these three countries so there is less dependence on China. And all three countries see this shift as a win. But this is a huge relationship. And these meetings tend to talk about a lot more than the economy. So lots of other things will be discussed.

FADEL: OK. So now, President Biden made a border stop in El Paso on his way to Mexico yesterday. So is that foreshadowing? Will migration be the issue that's going to dominate these talks?

PERALTA: Yeah, I mean, that's a - it's a huge issue. And it's a prickly issue. Some officials here in Mexico have expressed reservations about some American policies. But by and large, the U.S. and Mexico are aligned on immigration. For example, the U.S. has just announced that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians will be deported back to Mexico if they cross the border to seek asylum. And that policy would not be possible if Mexico didn't agree to receive them. One analyst I spoke to said that Mexico and the U.S. have come to an agreement that what they want to do is deter migrants from ever leaving their countries in the first place.

FADEL: Now, last week, we also heard about the arrest of one of Mexico's biggest drug lords and the violence that followed that. How much attention will be on security?

PERALTA: A lot of attention. The U.S. is looking to Mexico to fight the drug war more effectively. Essentially, most of the fentanyl that ends up in the U.S. comes through the southern border. And as you mentioned, last week, Mexico arrested the son of notorious drug lord El Chapo Guzman, who is thought to be a huge fentanyl dealer. And the press here called his arrest a gift to President Biden. On this side of the border, Mexico is complaining about the number of guns that keep flowing from the U.S. to here. The Mexican government blames the U.S. for the violence here. And they have expressed frustration that the American government is not doing enough to stem the flow of weapons.

FADEL: Now, Eyder, leaders will only be meeting for a pretty short time. Are there issues you're watching that might fall by the wayside?

PERALTA: I think Haiti. It's essentially a failed state. Months ago, the de facto prime minister asked for help. And all of these three countries - the U.S., Canada and Mexico - have played key roles in the past. And they could actually mount an international response to help. But I think it's an open question whether Haiti will even come up in these talks.

FADEL: Wow. Eyder Peralta reporting from Mexico City. Thank you so much.

PERALTA: Thank you, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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