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Biden Reaches Deals on Climate, Chips With Heads of Mexico, Canada – WSJ

North American leaders agreed to address causes of migration and make asylum process more fair

President Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday in Mexico
President Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday in Mexico (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP)

Tarini Parti and Anthony Harrup, WSJ

EnergiesNet.com 01 11 2023

resident Biden defended his approach to the border as he wrapped up two days of meetings on migration and the North American economy with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr. Biden has faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for his handling of border security and immigration policy. Republicans have said the president hasn’t done enough to curb the record migration at the southern border, while progressive Democrats argue his recent enforcement steps go too far.

“Both extremes are wrong,” Mr. Biden said Tuesday. “It’s a basic middle proposition.”

Ahead of Mr. Biden’s trip to Mexico City, his administration introduced new steps to deter migrants seeking asylum at the southern border by expanding its use of several Trump-era border control measures, which in part rely on Mexico to take back 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela. It also offered a legal pathway for up to 30,000 migrants from those four countries to enter the U.S. legally a month.

“People have to make it through jungles, and the long journey to the border, and many are victimized not only in terms of what they have to pay, but victimized physically in other ways,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re trying to make it easier for people to get here, opening up the capacity to get here, but not have them go through that god-awful process.”

On his way to Mexico, Mr. Biden made his first trip to the southern border since becoming president, visiting a port of entry and center for migrants in El Paso, Texas.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez, welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau on Monday in Mexico City.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez, welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau on Monday in Mexico City. (Carlos Santiago/Eyepix)

Although no additional major programs to tackle migration were announced at the summit, Mexican and U.S. officials said they would continue to consult on whether they can increase the number of migrants returned to Mexico. The leaders also agreed to continue to expand legal pathways for migrants, address root causes of migration and share ways to make the asylum process more fair and efficient.

Mr. López Obrador welcomed the U.S. decision to expand the parole program to people from those four countries to discourage migrants from attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, and praised a Canadian temporary work-visa program which he said has benefited some 25,000 Mexicans.

“The path to orderly migration is the one to follow,” he said.

Besides migration, the three leaders who met for the North American Leaders’ Summit announced commitments to build the semiconductor industry in the region, hit their climate goals and tackle the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

They agreed to organize a semiconductor forum with industry representatives and government officials in early 2023 and coordinate on figuring out their semiconductor supply chain needs and investments.

U.S. officials say semiconductor companies building new manufacturing facilities in the U.S. would like to put parts of their supply chain in Mexico.

“Nearshoring is a specific consideration because of the trade agreements that are in place. That and the added bonus of lower labor rates…makes Mexico a very attractive option for putting certain parts of the semiconductor supply chain there,” said Scott Jones, a managing director at consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, who has advised semiconductor companies on setting up potential operations in Latin America.

The countries also committed to reducing methane emissions from the solid waste and wastewater sector by at least 15% by 2030 compared with 2020 levels, and to develop a proposal to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030. They will also create a plan for standards and installation of electric vehicle chargers along their international borders.

The commitments come as the countries try to show a united front, even as they work through differences on several policy issues, including energy.

Mr. López Obrador has sought to strengthen the dominant role of Mexico’s state oil company and the public power utility at the expense of private and foreign investors. Mexican authorities are in consultations with the U.S. in an effort to avoid a U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement dispute panel over Mexican energy policy. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office says the policy puts billions of dollars in U.S. investments at risk. Canada has also joined in the complaint.

President Biden, heavily guarded by U.S. and Mexican security officials, arrived Monday to the National Palace in Mexico City to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
President Biden, heavily guarded by U.S. and Mexican security officials, arrived Monday to the National Palace in Mexico City to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (Carlos Tischler/Eyepix)

Canada also has concerns over the implementation of an electric-vehicle provision in the Inflation Reduction Act signed by Mr. Biden last year.

The U.S. has also been pressing Mexico to do more to confront the threat of fentanyl, much of which is produced by Mexican cartels and then smuggled into the U.S. There were more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, largely fueled by fentanyl.

During their meeting Monday, Mr. Biden and Mr. López Obrador discussed increasing cooperation to prosecute drug traffickers and disrupt the supply of chemicals used to make fentanyl, according to the White House.

Law-enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico has been strained since the arrest of former Mexican Defense Minister Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos in 2020. Gen. Cienfuegos was quickly released by then-U.S. Attorney General William Barr after Mexico threatened to withhold cooperation.

Days before Mr. Biden’s trip, Mexico’s military captured Ovidio Guzmán, the son of former drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Mr. López Obrador has said that Mr. Guzmán’s arrest was unrelated to Mr. Biden’s visit.

As part of the agreements announced Tuesday, the three countries are expected to coordinate on information regarding chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl and other synthetic drugs illicitly and organize a trilateral public-health summit.

Mr. López Obrador said his government has taken measures against the production of fentanyl, putting the navy in charge of seaports in an effort to keep out shipments of chemicals used to make it, and by destroying laboratories.

President Biden Makes First Visit to Mexican Border
Watch video: President Biden visited the southern border in El Paso Sunday before heading to Mexico City, where he’ll meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Fentanyl isn’t just a U.S. problem, he said. “If we don’t confront this problem, this scourge, we’re also going to suffer from it. So we have to act in a coordinated way,” he said.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau said they are still working through ways to stabilize Haiti. Canada has expressed openness to leading a security force in Haiti, which has suffered from rampant gang violence, fuel shortage and a cholera outbreak without a functioning government.

Asked about Canada’s willingness, Mr. Trudeau said at a press conference he’s working with officials in the Caribbean, the U.S. and Mexico “to ensure that if the situation was to deteriorate we do have options.” He added part of the solution also involves imposing sanctions on the wealthy families in Haiti “responsible for so much of the violence and political instability.”

Strengthening the region’s supply chain has been a major topic of discussion during the summit. Mr. López Obrador urged the U.S. in his meeting with Mr. Biden to make more investments in the region to improve supply-chain resilience, saying, “you hold the key in your hand.”

Mr. Trudeau has pitched Canada as a place for investments in the electric-vehicle supply chain.

The prime minister wants to bolster the Canadian manufacturing sector’s attempts to build a mining, electric-vehicle and battery-manufacturing industry that is integrated with that of the U.S.

Canada benefits from provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a $7,500 tax credit to buy electric vehicles made in North America, including Canada and Mexico.

But Canadian lawmakers are concerned about another provision in the act that benefits only U.S. manufacturers: The Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit in the IRA, which offers tax credits to battery makers located in the U.S., could draw investment in the battery industry away from Canada and hobble the local industry.

Paul Vieira contributed to this article.

Write to Tarini Parti at tarini.parti@wsj.com

Appeared on The WSJ in the January 11, 2023, print edition as ‘Biden Defends Border Policy at Summit’.

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