Joe Biden will use the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City to press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to set up a Canadian-led international security force in Haiti as part of a push to stem the flow of asylum seekers arriving on the U.S.’s doorstep.
The U.S. President will meet with Mr. Trudeau one-on-one Tuesday morning before sitting down trilaterally with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the National Palace for the latest edition of the summit, informally known as the Three Amigos.
Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said ahead of the meeting that Mr. Biden would talk to Mr. Trudeau about leading an effort to shore up Haiti’s national police.
“The United States believes that finding a country to help lead that effort is important … this is going to be a significant priority for us,” he told reporters. “Canada itself has expressed interest in taking on a leadership role.”
Haiti is suffering from lack of access to food, medicine and fuel, in large part because of criminal gangs that regularly blockade ports and run extensive kidnapping operations. The country is also in the middle of a political crisis, run by an unelected government since the assassination of its president in 2021.
Mr. Sullivan said he could not get into exact details before Mr. Biden’s conversation with Mr. Trudeau: “What I don’t want to do is jam anybody.”
Last October, U.S. officials broached the idea of Canada leading such a force. At the time, the Canadian government said it would send an assessment team to Haiti and make a decision at a later date based on what it heard from Haitians.
Mr. Biden’s priority at the Three Amigos is pressing his other partner for more help stopping refugees and fentanyl at his country’s southern border.
“We’re also going to discuss our shared security, including our joint action to address the plague of fentanyl, which has killed 100,000 Americans so far, and how we can tackle irregular migration, which I think we’re well on our way to doing,” Mr. Biden said at the start of a bilateral with Mr. Lopez Obrador.
The Mexican President, however, signalled that his co-operation could come at a price: He accused the United States of not doing enough to help his region of the world.
“This is the moment for us to determine to do away with this abandonment, this disdain, and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told Mr. Biden, who fired back that the U.S. is the world’s largest provider of foreign aid.
The unexpectedly sharp exchange between Mr. Biden and Mr. Lopez Obrador highlighted the power Mexico could have over the U.S. as Washington seeks help defusing the political bomb of undocumented immigration.
It came days after Mr. Biden unveiled a plan to curb the growing flow of asylum seekers arriving from Mexico.
The policy will see 30,000 migrants from four countries – Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua – expelled monthly from the U.S. to Mexico. Another 30,000 people per month will be accepted into the U.S., provided they make their applications remotely and wait for approval to cross the border.
The summit also follows the arrest in Mexico of accused fentanyl kingpin Ovidio Guzman, wanted by U.S. authorities, in a violent scene that left 19 cartel members and 10 Mexican soldiers dead.
Mr. Trudeau, meanwhile, signalled his very different priorities for the summit – trade and investment – in a meeting with Mexican business leaders. The Prime Minister championed efforts to move key supply chains out of China by highlighting Canada’s mining industry, which already has significant operations in Mexico.
“In an uncertain world, Canada is a stable and reliable partner,” Mr. Trudeau said. “Critical minerals is, of course, about mining … but we’re talking about so much more that flows from critical minerals, and because of critical minerals, as almost every business and worker in North America will rely on them in some way.”
International Trade Minister Mary Ng, meanwhile, warned her Mexican counterpart, Economy Secretary Raquel Buenrostro, about possible fallout from the Mexican government’s measures that favour the country’s state-owned petroleum and energy utilities. Ms. Ng “conveyed Canada’s concerns with Mexico’s energy reforms and their potential effects on Canadian investments, noting the importance of finding a mutually acceptable resolution.”
Mr. Lopez Obrador has already been helping the U.S. handle the flow of migrants. Under the Remain in Mexico program created by former U.S. president Donald Trump, Mexico agreed to let tens of thousands of asylum seekers stay south of the border while the U.S. processed their claims.
Jorge Alvarez Maynez, a Mexican congressman in the opposition Citizens’ Movement party, said Mexico had not prepared for the possibility of accepting even more turned-back asylum seekers.
“There are no reception policies in the states for people coming back,” he said in an interview, citing a lack of preparations on housing, employment and other integration services. “We don’t have public policy on that subject and we’re going to have a huge problem.”
Mr. Alvarez said Mr. Biden’s immigration plan seemed substantially similar to Mr. Trump’s. “Even though you have a very polarized political situation in the U.S., on migration, on drug policy, there isn’t a big difference.”
Some observers said Mr. Lopez Obrador’s assistance to Washington had effectively given him a pass with U.S. leaders.
Rodolfo Soriano-Nunez, a Mexican political analyst, pointed out that Mr. Trump did not press Mr. Lopez Obrador into a safe third-country agreement, which would have obliged migrants to apply for Mexican asylum.
“In practice, Mexico is the key enforcer of U.S. migration policy,” he said. “Lopez Obrador is willing to bring however many soldiers to the U.S. border, he’s willing to receive all these rejected Venezuelans and Nicaraguans and Cubans.”
Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has also avoided joining the chorus of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s domestic critics who fault him for expanding the militarization of policing, among other autocratic moves. Even after Mr. Lopez Obrador castigated him Monday, Mr. Biden made a point of praising him.
“What we have to do is what you’ve done, and I compliment you on it,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Lopez Obrador, “we have to continue to support and build democratic institutions in the hemisphere.”