The meeting of Mexico, the United States and Canada held last week in Washington left several substantive messages on the recovery of a common vision in North America, economic integration or collaboration to alleviate migration. But one of the agreements sealed at the summit, when the threat of the new omicron variant of covid-19 was not yet known, precisely reinforced the coordination strategy against the pandemic. The delegations headed by the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the American Joe Biden and the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, pledged to update the collaboration mechanism created a decade ago in the face of the H1N1 influenza crisis. “We are going to update this framework so that we have a more flexible mechanism that allows us to respond to a greater range of threats in terms of pandemics and public health,” explains Roberto Velasco, head of the North America Unit of the Ministry of Relations. of Exteriors.
In a conversation with EL PAÍS by videoconference. the official reviews the milestones of the appointment, known colloquially as The Three Amigos, that had not been celebrated for five years because of former President Donald Trump’s neglect. One of them has to do with the health emergency and its economic consequences. On this and other fronts, the three countries have common purposes. “There is an alignment of interests that we have talked a lot between Canada and Mexico and now also with the United States, which is how we can have a greater production of vaccines in Mexico and Canada that allows us to be less vulnerable to having vaccines from third countries,” he says. Velasco. “Regarding the management of the pandemic, what happened? That we realized that the mandate was very narrow and aimed at influenza and it was not enough to face a pandemic that was totally different, “he adds in reference to the coronavirus.
The three governments also agreed that they will continue “working to strengthen the supply chains of medical supplies and seek to protect the ones we already have” and, also to contain the economic impact of covid-19, the worst since the Great Recession, they were convinced of the need to deepen the commitment to regional cooperation under the umbrella of the T-MEC trade agreement. “North America is united again, there is a common vision and the intention to resume this trilateral dialogue next year in Mexico City. I summarize the common thread in a phrase that President López Obrador said during the meeting, that we speak in different languages, but the same language, ”continues the foreign minister’s collaborator, Marcelo Ebrard.
In short, Velasco sums up, “it was a progressive summit where there are three governments that have very similar aspirations and that are trying to achieve very similar things: greater social justice, greater equity, more job opportunities, especially for the middle classes and the most vulnerable groups ”. The approach that López Obrador defended mixes the economic challenges and those of migration. In the absence of specifics on the plan, the United States promised to invest in Central America through a program called Sembrando Oportunidades, similar to the one promoted by Mexico in the south of the country and known as Sembrando Vida.
“The will of the Governments to work for a humanistic vision of migration and to promote an economic integration that has a broader effect on the population of each of the three countries. And of course, ending this pandemic that has been so costly for our countries, but especially for the most vulnerable groups ”, emphasizes Velasco, highlighting Canada’s new involvement in this conversation. The joint declaration “includes opening more legal channels for migration as a commitment of the three countries, deepening temporary employment programs, such as the agricultural programs that exist with Canada and also with the United States, seeing to which sectors they can be extended and, in general, how the migratory flow can be ordered ”. For the Mexican Government, “there is a part that cannot be overlooked, which is that as long as there is a demand for labor, as long as there is a demand for the activities carried out by migrants, which are very important, the dilemma is whether We want this to happen in a disorderly, irregular and dangerous way or we want it to happen in an orderly, regular way ”.
“Of course”, adds the head of the North American unit, “there is still a lot to do, it is a beginning and I want to see it as a pilot, not a general answer, but it is already something concrete that the two countries will be able to do. , analyze”. López Obrador emphasized at the beginning of the trilateral meeting on changing the focus towards migrants, but also launched an alert related to the commercial boom in China. “Integration is also a way of dealing with other regions of the world and of not losing dynamism, of not stagnating. What the president says is an integration of the competitive advantages of each of the three countries, ”says Velasco, who also affects the geopolitical weight of that discourse. In other words, if there is no trend reversal, in the coming decades there may be an economic imbalance in the world. “If we do not take measures to have this integration and to energize our economies, this economic imbalance can lead to other dimensions, even warlike in nature.”
The meeting also addressed, without going into details, security challenges. At the beginning of October, Mexico and the United States signed a new agreement, called the Bicentennial Understanding, which leaves behind the Merida Initiative, a program from the time of George W. Bush that had millions of dollars in aid. The plan proposes a new approach focused on supporting the communities most affected by drug trafficking and in the fight against consumption. “We announced several important things. For example, a memorandum of understanding on addictions and mental health, which was one of the agreements of the Bicentennial Understanding. Also the fact that now there will be special envoys from Mexico on the issue of arms trafficking in the United States and there will also be a bilateral working group on the border to work on arms trafficking and also on crimes related to it ”, Velasco reviews. “This is a subject in which we still need a lot of things, but we are working at full speed,” he assures.
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