America’s Best Diplomat “Visits” Mexico and Canada on Virtual Trip
WASHINGTON – Diplomats sat next to stacks of briefing materials, flanked by flags and pointed out their proximity. But they were geographically distant on Friday as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, due to the pandemic, opened a new chapter in North American relations with virtual tours to Mexico and Canada in what was billed as his first trip. official.
While symbolically important in any administration, President Joe Biden’s decision to send Blinken to Mexico and Canada for the first visits, even virtually, is part of a larger effort to turn the page of a predecessor who had at times strained relations with the two nations. . The three countries signed a revamped trade deal last year after President Donald Trump called for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The secretary has started his virtual visits to Mexico, a country Trump has repeatedly decried during his campaign and early in his presidency, although relations have become more cordial under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“I wanted to visit, in quotes, Mexico first to demonstrate the importance that we attach, President Biden attaches, to relations between our countries,” Blinken told his counterpart, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Blinken’s meetings with Mexico and Canada, two of the United States’ largest trading partners, were expected to cover economic ground as well as efforts to fight COVID-19, prompting the three countries to close borders to all traffic except essential.
Last week, Biden held his first, also virtual, bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who at times had a chilling relationship with Trump. Biden has disappointed some in Canada with his decision upon taking office to overthrow Trump and revoke the Keystone XL pipeline license, which President Barack Obama’s administration determined had only energy and economic benefits. limited for the United States and conflicted with efforts to curb climate change.
This was not addressed during the public portion of Blinken’s meeting with Foreign Secretary Marc Garneau, who praised Biden’s commitment to “renewing U.S. leadership and diplomacy.” The secretary then met privately with Trudeau.
Ebrard, for his part, hailed Biden’s decision to overthrow his predecessor and join both the Paris climate agreement and the World Health Organization. He also welcomed the “initiatives” of the new administration, an apparent reference to the decision to set a new course for certain immigration and border policies.
“We understand that this is done in recognition of the Mexican community,” he said, without mentioning any specific policy. “We welcome them with empathy.
Biden ended Trump’s policy of forcing asylum-seeking migrants to wait in Mexico or to continue their claims in Central America. He also restored protection for people without legal status in the United States who were brought to the country as children, many of whom are Mexican, and supports legislation that would allow them to apply for citizenship.
The Biden administration began processing asylum claims from around 25,000 migrants who were in Mexico, often in unsanitary and dangerous conditions, but did not lift the policy, imposed at the start of the epidemic of COVID-19, to quickly deport those captured along the border and has sought to deter illegal migration.
Just before his visit with Ebrard, Blinken took a virtual tour of the busy El Paso, Texas border crossing and said the administration was working with Mexico and countries in Central America to ease conditions pushing people trying to illegally reach the United States. .
“To anyone considering this trip, our message is: don’t do it. We strictly enforce our immigration laws and border security measures, ”he said.