AP: Yeah, Trump had a better relationship with Mexico's president than Biden

AP Photo/Ginnette Riquelme

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is scheduled to meet with Joe Biden in Washington on Tuesday before Biden leaves for his trip to the Middle East. It seems he is all rested up and ready to act like he’s the president now.

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The Associated Press reports that the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is not in a good place. Biden’s relationship with AMLO is not good. As a matter of fact, the AP admits that Trump had a good relationship with AMLO while Biden has not been able to establish the same kind of relationship. It must really sting for the Associated Press to report that Trump knew how to finesse the Mexican president to get what he wanted while Joe Biden and his administration can’t manage to do the same.

Just about a month ago, AMLO insulted Biden by refusing to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. He boycotted the summit because Team Biden refused to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, all anti-democratic regimes. Ironically, Biden will travel to Saudi Arabia during his trip to the Middle East and is taking flack for doing so, given The Kingdom’s record on human rights. AMLO also called U.S. support for Ukraine “a crass error.” But now he’s coming to Washington and meeting with Biden.

Trump was successful in his relationship with AMLO because Trump was interested in one thing from him – cooperation with security along the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump ran on controlling illegal immigration and he made good on that promise. Biden has no such interest in border security. Team Biden wants to push AMLO on subjects like climate change and fossil fuels. Trump understood something that Biden does not – without a secure border, nothing else matters. Policy agreements or trade deals or anything else falls by the wayside if there is chaos and lawlessness on the border.

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On that, and other issues, it’s clear López Obrador is getting along much worse with Biden than with Donald Trump, who threatened Mexico, but wanted only one thing from his southern neighbor: stop migrants from reaching the border.

“I think it is more that the Biden administration has tried hard to re-institutionalize the relationship and restore the relationship that’s not centered solely on immigration and trade. And I think as a result that leads to issues coming up that AMLO is less comfortable talking about,” Andrew Rudman, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, said, using the Spanish acronym by which Mexicans refer to the president.

Trump understood that immigration and trade were the top issues between the U.S. and Mexico. It is not the job of the United States to make demands of Mexico over their use of fossil fuels or exercise their ability to produce energy. Team Biden wants AMLO to end Mexico’s reliance on fossil fuels. AMLO favors Mexico’s state-owned electricity utility over foreign-built plants powered by natural gas and renewable energy. Biden wants to force compliance with environmental laws and rules in trade agreements. AMLO’s interest in making Mexico great again isn’t compatible with Biden’s presidency. AMLO is taking a more nationalistic approach in governing than Biden, who puts the world before the United States.

“At the end of the day, the problem is that you have the complete mismatch in this relationship,” said Arturo Sarukhan, who served as Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2006 to 2013.

The United States “needs Mexico as a key partner on everything from ‘near shoring’ (manufacturing for the U.S. market) … in terms of competitiveness, in terms of North American energy security, energy independence, energy efficiency,” Sarukhan said. “The problem is you have a Mexican president who doesn’t care about any of these things.”

What the Mexican president is interested in talking about is inflation, which in June spiked to almost 8%. Inflation and the economic after-effects of the pandemic are leading an increasing number of Mexicans to emigrate — 22 of the 53 migrants who recently died after being abandoned by smugglers in a semi-trailer in Texas were Mexican.

“We have to look for a way to act together, help each other in controlling inflation,” López Obrador said Friday. “That is a topic I am going to propose. We have a plan.”

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One thing Biden and AMLO have in common is their criticism of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s border policies. Mexico holds leverage over Biden because of the Biden border crisis. Mexico doesn’t have to accept any illegal migrants except Mexicans. Because of Mexico’s agreement with Trump, though, Mexico accepted migrants from other countries being returned under Title 42. AMLO wants the U.S. to grant more work visas to Mexicans and Central Americans. That isn’t a popular idea among working class Americans concerned for their jobs. Would Biden risk support from unions to go along with AMLO’s request? That remains to be seen.

AMLO is no angel. He enjoys irritating the Biden administration. His most recent poke at Biden was when he said, “the Statue of Liberty should be dismantled and returned to France if Assange is imprisoned in the U.S.”

We’ll see if Biden’s handlers allow him to take the meeting with AMLO and what, if anything, comes of it. The irony of stories like this is that Biden claimed to be an expert on foreign relations for the duration of his decades-long career in politics. It was always a joke, as he has been historically wrong about all of his foreign policy opinions, but it was his one claim to fame. Obama put him on his ticket to bring some foreign policy heft to the presidential campaign. We’ve seen the disastrous results of Biden’s decisions since he was sworn in as president, beginning with the horrific withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden is a legend in his own mind.

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 15, 2024
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