MEXICO CITY – In his first trip south of the border as president, Joe Biden will try to accomplish what his predecessors could not: Get Mexico to finally curtail the flow of drugs.
Biden’s first full day in Mexico City included a welcoming ceremony and a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the North American Leaders’ Summit.
An array of issues from migrant challenges to supply chains to climate change are on the agenda for the meeting, which is currently underway. The biggest topic: Stopping the flow of fentanyl into the United States.
“Our hope and expectation is that President Biden will be able to emerge from the meetings over the next couple of days and be able to tell you that he does believe he has commitments for stronger cooperation on the fentanyl issue,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Monday.
Biden, fentanyl and Mexico: Fentanyl killed 70,000 in US. With Biden in Mexico, can neighbors cooperate to stop flow?
In opening remarks of the bilateral meeting, Biden called Mexico "a true partner" and said the two leaders will discuss how to deepen their relationship, including addressing supply chains and discussing joint actions to combat fentanyl.
"Above all, we're both committed to pursuing a better future, one grounded on peace and prosperity for all of our people," Biden said.
Biden in the meeting was joined by several administration officials, including U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar and John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has asked their Mexican counterpart for help in the war on drugs. First it was marijuana. Then cocaine, crack and heroin.
Now it's fentanyl, the leading cause of death for Americans under 45.
Bienvenido a Ciudad de México: Biden took part in a welcome ceremony with López Obrador at the National Palace, where the Mexican president lives
Strike a pose: The two leaders stood for a photo together, along with their spouses, during the welcome ceremony. The photo came after both countries national anthems were played.
An intimate limo ride: Sullivan told reporters that Biden rode with López Obrador from the airport back into town.
Brazil’s Jan. 6 mirror: Supporters of Brazilian ex-President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and presidential palace Sunday. The recent attack could come up in the meeting between Biden — who condemned the actions — and López Obrador, who has celebrated Brazil’s newly inaugurated leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Ahead of the bilateral meeting, Biden, López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a joint statement saying that they “stand with Brazil as it safeguards its democratic institutions.” “Our governments support the free will of the people of Brazil,” the leaders added.
Although Biden has faced some hiccups and snubs from López Obrador over the past year, the two leaders will need to work together to face key issues facing both their countries: migration, drugs and guns.
A traditional relationship between the two countries took a backseat under the Trump administration, where former President Donald Trump often criticized Mexico and threatened sanctions to help curb migration to the United States.
The bilateral meeting between Biden and López Obrador shows a return to a more traditional relationship between the two countries.
“This trip is a good opportunity for President Biden to deepen his personal engagement with President Lopez Obrador and Prime Minister Trudeau,” Sullivan said.
What they’re saying
Sullivan said Biden hopes to relay his experience from the U.S.-Mexico border, which he visited Sunday in El Paso, in terms of migration, as well as the fentanyl issues facing the United States.
Biden will “talk with him about ways in which the US and Mexico can cooperate more effectively, deploy technology more comprehensively, increase cooperation between Mexican law enforcement personnel and US law enforcement personnel, not just at the border, but at every step along the federal supply chain,” Sullivan said.
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Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden to ask Mexican President AMLO for help stopping fentanyl