- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

President Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged closer cooperation Wednesday on the heels of the new trade deal as the Mexican leader thanked Mr. Trump for being “increasingly respectful” of Mexicans.

“You have not tried to treat us as a colony,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told Mr. Trump in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. “On the contrary … you have treated us as what we are — a country and a dignified people.”

The two leaders signed a joint declaration pledging closer ties, after the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal went into effect last week. It achieved one of Mr. Trump’s major goals, replacing the 1990s-era North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. Trump said the trade deal “will bring countless jobs from overseas back to North America.”

“It will bring enormous prosperity to American and Mexican workers, and Canada,” Mr. Trump said.

It was the first trip outside Mexico for Mr. Lopez Obrador, a leftist whose economy had been in a tailspin even before the coronavirus pandemic hit. He said the trade deal “constitutes a great accomplishment benefitting all three nations and our peoples,” and sounded like Mr. Trump as he railed against aggregate annual trade deficits of $611 billion in North America.

“Our region is inexplicably a region of trade deficits,” Mr. Lopez Obrador said. “This new agreement seeks to reverse this imbalance through greater integration of our economies.”

The Mexican leader was effusive in his praise for Mr. Trump, whose campaign announcement in 2015 called for tougher immigration protections against “criminals” and “rapists” from Mexico. Mr. Lopez Obrador said some observers expected a confrontational visit.

“Fortunately this has not been the case,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told Mr. Trump. “We have received from you understanding and respect.”

He thanked Mr. Trump for being “increasingly respectful of our Mexican fellow-men.”

Mr. Trump praised his counterpart for helping the U.S. to stop “the illicit border flow of drugs, guns and cash and contraband, and very importantly stopping human trafficking.” He said the southern border has become “very tight.”

“Each of us was elected on the pledge to fight corruption, return power to the people, and put the interests of our countries first,” Mr. Trump said.

He said the U.S. is home to about 36 million Mexican Americans, whom Mr. Trump called “hard-working, incredible people.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said immigration “came up briefly” in private talks between the two leaders, in the context of the “great cooperation” between the two countries on border security.

A senior administration official said illegal migration from Central American countries through Mexico to the U.S. is now down 85%.

“That would not be possible without the help of President Lopez Obrador with the Migrant Protection plan that we worked together on, and the 25,000 National Guardsmen men and women that he has put forward to the northern and southern borders to protect people from coming illegally,” the official said.

The White House said all members of the Mexican delegation accompanying Mr. Lopez Obrador underwent coronavirus tests administered by the White House. It was Mr. Trump’s second meeting with a foreign leader since the pandemic closed many parts of the U.S. in mid-March; the president of Poland visited Mr. Trump on June 24.

Missing was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who turned down the White House’s invitation to celebrate the trade deal.

Mr. Trudeau is annoyed that Mr. Trump has threatened new tariffs on Canadian aluminum even before the pact went into effect on July 1. He also said he won’t travel internationally during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr. Trump said he hoped to host Mr. Trudeau at the White House soon.

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