President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have pledged to overhaul their countries' bilateral relationship to confront urgent challenges ranging from security threats to environmental dangers. The two leaders spoke at Mexico's presidential residence ahead of a one-on-one meeting.
President Obama described Mexico's battle against drug traffickers as courageous and said the United States must be a full partner in that arena and many others.
Standing alongside his Mexican counterpart, Mr. Obama said U.S.-Mexican ties are strong but can still be stronger. He paid tribute to historical bonds between the two countries that have grown in significance through immigration.
"All across the United States, we have benefited from the culture, the language, the food, the insights, the literature, the energy, and the ambitions of people who have migrated from our southern neighbor," he said.
Mr. Obama said it was no accident that the first foreign leader with whom he met following last year's electoral victory was President Calderon.
For his part, Mr. Calderon said Mexico is doing its part to confront security challenges and build a more vibrant economy so that fewer of his countrymen feel compelled to seek a future elsewhere. He urged President Obama to make good on his pledge to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in the United States so that families separated by the U.S.-Mexico border can be reunited.
He spoke at length of a vision for the North American region he wants to become reality. He said he wants a continent that is more prosperous and developed with a more-competitive economy. He said he wants a North America is that is more secure, free of terrorism and organized crime. And he said he wants a continent that embraces its responsibilities to the global environment.
After their bilateral meeting, the two leaders were expected to announce measures to curb the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexico and other nations. Mexico has urged the United States to reinstate a ban on assault weapons - something the Obama administration says it favors.
The death toll from drug-related violence in Mexico's northernmost states totaled roughly 6,000 last year. Before Mr. Obama's arrival, President Calderon said his country has paid a high price confronting drug traffickers whose criminal enterprise exists to satisfy the U.S. demand for illegal narcotics.