On January 9th and 10th, leaders from Canada, Mexico, and the United States assembled in Mexico City for the 2023 North American Leaders’ Summit (N.A.L.S.). United States President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador discussed a range of goals and challenges related to energy, trade, security, and migration. On the final day of the summit, the leaders addressed each other and the public in a joint press conference at the National Palace to voice their ambitions.
According to Ambassador Earl Anthony (via the Wilson Center), all three leaders agreed to strengthen their infrastructural ties to form an economic stronghold against opposing international economic powerhouses – namely, China. Implementing regional supply chains would bring the continent new opportunities for employment and allow for the integration of climate friendly “green” technology.
As per the summit deliverables released by the White House, the nations agreed to reduce their waste sector methane emissions by 15% percent by 2030 – with compliance to the Global Methane Pledge.
However – according to Reuters – President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau did not discuss their concerns over Mexico’s nationalistic energy policies, which prioritize state-run energy sources as opposed to private suppliers from the U.S. and Canada.
Nonetheless, President Biden and President López Obrador did share their concern for the illegal trade along the U.S.-Mexico border. In efforts to tackle both drug and human trafficking, President Biden spoke of shared initiatives to target chemical precursors that are primarily used by Mexican drug traffickers.
The illegal drug trade reflects an outstanding interconnected humanitarian challenge (including but not limited to human smuggling and mass illegal migration), Ambassador Earl Anthony said. “While Mexico and the U.S. have agreed on a joint framework to fight cross-border crime, too many in the U.S. are dying from overdoses of drugs smuggled from Mexico, and too many in Mexico are suffering from the violence associated with that drug smuggling.”
The Council on Foreign Relations reports that violence and crime related to drug trafficking in Mexico has accounted for more than 360,000 homicides (including politicians, journalists, and students) since 2006. The illegal Mexican drug trade is majorly responsible for cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and marijuana; the Council says that the amount of fentanyl Mexican authorities seized “quintupled” between 2019 and 2020. The C.D.C. further attributes 75% of drug overdose deaths in the United States to opioids.
Beyond the domestic threat presented to both Mexico and the United States, the drug trade has also fueled mass illegal migration within both Central and North America. Pew Research Center notes that migration in the U.S.-Mexico border has remained at a consistent high. According to reports, the November 2022 statistics found that 206,239 migrants entered the United States by means of the U.S.-Mexico border.
In his address to the press, President López Obrador acknowledged that there are dire human conditions perpetuating illegal migration, which he refers to as “antisocial behaviours.” “People are good by nature. And it’s circumstances that sometimes make it necessary for someone to take the path of antisocial behaviours,” López Obrador said. “We have seen this in Mexico and also in our sister countries, the countries of Honduras and El Salvador.”
Migration continued to be discussed in terms of development and crime. The Mexican president positioned illegal migration as a consequence of inadequate resources and encouraged both Trudeau and Biden to join him in addressing the dilemma through its principle cause – intensifying appropriate allocation of resources to reduce migration to the United States. This analysis of the migration crisis questions North America’s investment in Latin America, which exists beyond the boundaries of the summit’s trifecta.
López Obrador also thanked Prime Minister Trudeau for his policies allocating 25,000 visas to Mexican migrants and continued to encourage President Biden to “regularize the migration situations of millions of Mexicans who have been in the States working, living in the United States, and contributing to the development of that great nation, which is the United States of America.”
It appears that both domestic and continental interests would be served if all three leaders participated in a resource exchange, inspiring prosperity in North America and beyond. To support the actualization of the deliverables the leaders proposed at the N.A.L.S., leadership must act upon their initiatives to produce what President López Obrador would call economic, humanitarian, and environmental “social behaviours.”
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