News / USA

    North American Leaders Seek Increased Trade

    President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, state government palace, Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014.
    President Barack Obama meets with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, state government palace, Toluca, Mexico, Feb. 19, 2014.
    VOA News
    President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto met in Toluca, Mexico and pledged to open a new chapter in their partnership, promoting broad-based economic growth so the region can set new global standards for trade, education, sustainable growth and innovation.
     
    Obama, Harper and Pena called North America "among the most competitive and dynamic [regions] in the world" when they met Wednesday in Toluca, Mexico, at the North American Leaders' Summit.
     
    Obama said he is working with his counterparts to increase trade, including by investing in border crossings so goods can get to market faster. He said the three countries want to make better use of their competitive advantages and create more jobs.
     
    The U.S. president also said the regional neighbors will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, calling the science of global climate change "irrefutable."
     
    Harper said much can be done to build on the success of the North American Free Trade Agreement and that the three leaders are in agreement about the need to increase trade to the Pacific Rim.
     
    Twenty years after the countries agreed to NAFTA, the economies of the three nations are often linked. But they are facing new difficulties in reaching a united front in negotiations to complete the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, largely because of political concerns Obama faces in Washington.
     
    Completion of the Pacific trade pact could bolster North America's standing in the global economy, and Obama supports completion of the deal by the end of 2014.
     
    However, he faces opposition from lawmakers in his own Democratic party who oppose the White House call for "fast track" authority that would block amendments to the trade deal during the congressional approval process.
     
    The three leaders also discussed energy, security and immigration issues, with American political divisions again limiting Obama's ability to reach accord with his North American counterparts.
     
    Harper has voiced frustration at the length of time it has taken Obama to decide whether to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline that would stretch nearly 1,900 kilometers from Canada's oil sands to refineries in the U.S. state of Texas. U.S. environmentalists are opposing the project, now in its sixth year of review.
     
    U.S. immigration reforms are stalled in Congress. Obama's political opponents say the country's borders with Mexico are not secure and are objecting to opening the possibility for citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., most of them from Mexico and Central America.

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