As President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador resume the tradition of the North America Leaders' Summit on Thursday, the three allies face deep differences on migration, climate and trade.
There's "not that much in common between them, at least in their vision for what they want for their countries," said Kenneth Frankel, president of the Canadian Council for the Americas. "Not just what they want for their countries, but what they can deliver for their countries."
Thursday's meetings at the White House will be the first trilateral get-together for North American leaders since a June 2016 gathering of Trudeau, Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto in Ottawa. The gatherings took a hiatus under President Donald Trump, who feuded with Trudeau and Nieto during his tenure.
Trudeau arrived in Washington with concerns about buy-American provisions in the president's proposed $1.85 trillion social services plan. Mexico's priorities heading into the summit were to obtain concrete advances on immigration and more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
President Biden will meet separately with Trudeau and López Obrador on Thursday before the leaders hold a trilateral session in the midst of what is a big week for the U.S. president. President Biden signed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law Monday, held a virtual summit with China's Xi Jinping that night, and traveled over the next two days to promote provisions in the big spending deal. He's also trying to push through his social services and climate spending plan.
Mexico has worked with the United States — under both Trump and Biden — to control migrant flows and assist in returning migrants to Central America. The two countries are still negotiating the court-ordered re-implementation of a Trump-era policy known as Remain in Mexico, which forced asylum seekers to wait out their U.S. asylum process in Mexico.
López Obrador has also mentioned on multiple occasions his interest in the U.S. government expanding its temporary work visa program so more Mexicans and Central Americans can fill the demand for labor in the U.S. The temporary workers in turn could have access to the higher pay they seek in the U.S. without becoming part of the illegal immigration flow.
Arriving in Washington on Wednesday, Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said his government would focus on three issues: the pandemic, economic integration and immigration. On immigration, Ebrard said Mexico would try to rally support for two of López Obrador's signature social programs — tree planting and youth job opportunities — to reduce the push factors of migration.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.