3 Issues to Know About Biden’s Journey to Mexico

President Joe Biden traveled to Mexico on Sunday evening and spent Monday assembly with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. On Tuesday, Biden will attend the summit of North American leaders with Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Why do these conferences matter, and what is going to the leaders focus on? Mateo Haydar, a analysis assistant on Latin America within the Douglas and Sarah Allison Heart for International Coverage Research at The Heritage Basis, says the immigration disaster and “report numbers of fentanyl deaths” will doubtless be entrance and middle within the conversations among the many leaders. (The Every day Sign is the information outlet of The Heritage Basis.)

Haydar joins “The Every day Sign Podcast” to elucidate three of the most important points Biden ought to deal with with Mexico’s Lopez Obrador and to supply his evaluation of the doubtless outcomes of the conferences.

Hearken to the podcast beneath or learn the calmly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: Mateo Haydar is a analysis assistant on Latin America within the Douglas and Sarah Allison Heart for International Coverage Research right here at The Heritage Basis. Mateo, thanks a lot for being right here right now.

Mateo Haydar: Thanks a lot for having me.

Allen: So, we’re listening to loads about [President Joe] Biden this week. Biden is experiencing quite a lot of firsts. After all, he traveled to the border for the primary time throughout his presidency on Sunday, after which he took his first journey to Mexico as president that evening, and continues to be in Mexico. So discuss somewhat bit about what a few of these central points are that Biden is discussing, first off, with the president of Mexico.

Haydar: Sure, Virginia. As you talked about, prime line, clearly, for American pursuits within the summits—to begin with, you talked about that these are technically annual summits that happen. And it’s a nice query to ask, what precisely must be popping out of those summits, or whether or not their significance deserves or matches the outcomes, whether or not expectations match the outcomes, as a result of as we noticed, for instance, final 12 months, it truly took a bit over a 12 months. So, it was within the fall of 2021, was the final time we had the summit, and little got here out of it.

We’ve seen, sadly, AMLO [Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador] run circles across the Biden administration. Advert I’d add, in [Canadian] Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau’s case as properly, their arms seem like tied for a scarcity of a technique, in response to a lot of points that we’ll speak about.

However going again to your first query, top-line American pursuits in these summits, and in any engagement with Mexico, clearly, the border disaster that’s ongoing, however now we’re seeing the White Home attempting to shift gears when it comes to rhetoric and seemingly technique. However the insurance policies stay the identical and are more likely to stay, in broad scale, the identical, and we will speak about that.

Fentanyl, clearly, going by way of the border. So it’s not simply an immigration disaster, however we’re seeing report numbers of fentanyl deaths, as we all know properly. And that is a matter that seems to be developing within the plans for the dialog. However once more, no plan has come out when it comes to shifting gears on coverage to crack down on fentanyl.

We will discuss somewhat bit in regards to the mechanics of the problems there, the looming elephant within the room on fentanyl that everybody seems to be overlooking, which is China, and the predominance of Chinese language firms within the fentanyl commerce going by way of Mexico, utilizing Mexico as a transit route. And there’s different safety points there, like unlawful fisheries.

Clearly, Mexican drug cartels are a risk to U.S. sovereignty and nationwide safety. It’s a multibillion-dollar business that they’ve managed to carve out from Biden’s border disaster.

And commerce, I’d add, Virginia, is the final massive level, the place once more, the US sadly just isn’t taking over its seat and its place with the Biden administration with reference to Mexico and Canada on commerce. We will get extra into the weeds of that, however we’re principally—they’re consuming our lunch right here on a lot of sectors, and these are U.S. residents and U.S. capital that’s on the road. And so we will get into the weeds of that.

1. Border and Fentanyl Are Key Conversations

Allen: Thanks a lot for laying that out. I wish to begin with speaking in regards to the border. Clearly, as now we have talked about, President Biden was on the border on Sunday. That was his first journey. He goes proper from the border right down to Mexico, hopefully with a barely, barely higher understanding of what precisely is going on on the border, what’s the scenario. And also you talked about fentanyl and that dialogue happening with the Mexican president, of how can we truly get this example beneath management.

What are the sorts of conversations which are taking place, do you suppose? These are taking place behind closed doorways, so clearly, we’re considerably speculating right here, however what are the sorts of conversations that the president is having with the president of Mexico to say, “OK, this can be a large difficulty, the quantity of fentanyl that’s flooding from Mexico throughout the American border”? What are the methods that they may very well be taking a look at to say, “We have to crack down on this and that is how we will work collectively to really get this example beneath management”?

Haydar: Proper. So the issue, once more, is that we’ve fallen into this cycle of safety process forces and a number of other engagements with the AMLO administration because the starting of the Biden White Home on this. However there was no shifting of gears when it comes to what the coverage is to crack down on the numbers, totally different methods to have a look at, notably at transit by way of the border.

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We all know that fentanyl will get by way of the border in numerous methods and in much more refined methods usually than we see with different medication which are carried in with luggage, for instance, when migrants or unlawful aliens, in lots of instances, need to stroll by way of the border. They principally, they pay a charge to the smugglers, and the charge is lowered or the advantages that they’ve enhance indirectly carrying a bag, or we see different methods of smuggling immediately that the cartels function themselves.

With fentanyl, we see a lot of methods. We see it principally included or hidden in different authorized medication. We see a rising variety of Americans, truly, driving by way of the border with fentanyl.

And so the problem right here that Biden must be elevating is, one, that this can be a top-line precedence for the administration, and that it’s prepared to place different issues on the road to crack down, and to guarantee that the Mexican authorities and its broad toolkit of regulation enforcement is being supplied, and that they’re additionally placing assets on the road right here as a result of there’s a duty there that they carry. And in order that must be the message that’s despatched.

Once more, the opposite massive message is China. You can’t crack down on fentanyl with out having the Mexicans additionally take steps to crack down on the Chinese language firms that present the precursors on the transnational legal part, additionally backed by the Chinese language Communist Celebration particularly, that operates in Mexico, that is also broadly predominant within the unlawful fisheries camp as properly. And there’s a possible triangulation there with fentanyl.

And so to not speak about China in these conferences, which we’ve seen up to now, completely ignores a big a part of this downside. And once more, we’ve fallen into offering these beauty options, or letting or not it’s dealt with at a technical stage between businesses, however there isn’t a plan that’s being rolled out of the White Home, for instance, that elevates this as a nationwide safety risk that it’s.

Allen: I believe that’s actually fascinating, what you talked about about China, and the truth that if China just isn’t talked about throughout this summit, that’s going to boost quite a lot of crimson flags. And I do wish to discuss somewhat bit extra about China in only a second. However whereas we’re on the problem of medicine and cartels, I do suppose it’s actually vital to say what occurred shortly earlier than Biden’s go to to Mexico, that the son of the drug lord El Chapo was arrested by authorities in Mexico.

Why precisely was this a major transfer? And is that this an indication, with Mexico saying, “OK, we’re going to arrest this particular person who is very concerned within the cartels, who’s extremely concerned within the trafficking of fentanyl, we’re arresting him,” does that point out an precise shift within the Mexican authorities beginning to crack down on cartels, or was that extra a gesture of goodwill simply towards Biden and we would see this drug lord launched simply perhaps even days after Biden leaves?

Haydar: I believe it’s nail on the top along with your remark there, Virginia, as a result of should you take a look at the report of AMLO in Mexico on this particularly, to begin with, there’s large issues that additionally are sometimes ignored in these summits in regards to the affect and energy of Mexican drug cartels, the biggest drug cartels particularly as operators in businesses of the Mexican state, in Mexican politics, as being seen as carrying a big affect over the AMLO administration, frankly, in some ways. And so there’s additionally no technique there to at the least to mitigate that and its results on U.S. sovereignty.

Large issues, for instance, with the Mexican Institute for Migration, that’s accountable for dealing with the circulate of unlawful immigrants going by way of Mexico northbound to the US. Large issues there and stories which have come out the place Mexican drug cartels play a direct position in these businesses, the place these businesses function, in some instances, or models of those businesses, elements of the bigger pressure function as cartels of their very own for smuggling and trafficking. And in order that’s a difficulty that always isn’t raised.

However to your level in regards to the information of the week with the son of El Chapo, Ovidio Guzman, that is a part of an ongoing saga the place AMLO has proven … principally the place he falls or at the least the disastrous results of his coverage on safety and on cracking down on these threats.

We noticed this in 2019 when the son of El Chapo, the identical person that was captured this week, was truly captured by Mexican forces after which launched as a result of the Sinaloa Cartel principally launched conflict in Culiacan in opposition to Mexican regulation enforcement, and principally they caved and launched him.

Now they’ve recaptured him. We noticed the same, although I’d say maybe much less efficient and fewer intensive, deployment of violence by the Sinaloa Cartel in Culiacan, however that’s to not principally to scale back the significance or to mitigate the significance of the occasions in the previous few days, and to underestimate something that occurred. However we noticed, once more, the same present of pressure.

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Even though the AMLO administration has truly deployed a media effort to attempt to clarify that this isn’t a gesture to Biden, that that is greater than that, there’s no coincidence right here that in the identical week the place Biden is getting ready his first go to to Mexico, that that is principally waged as a bargaining chip on the desk that the Mexicans can use as the US prepares a case for extradition, to request extradition of this particular person.

The Biden administration must clarify right here that this isn’t negotiable, that that is a person that, like his father, follows the same trajectory and has the same report, and due to this fact the US just isn’t ready to need to leverage or principally need to attempt to negotiate with the Mexicans on a request for extradition that’s mutually helpful for the US and for Mexico.

There’s larger points right here on the desk. And also you’re proper, it’s a lingering query as to what is going to occur if the extradition case doesn’t undergo. However I believe the administration must be clear there … and in addition utilizing media efforts to make this clear to the Mexican public. There’s an enormous public diplomacy part that we regularly underestimate in these journeys, particularly for the native inhabitants.

To provide you one other instance there, for instance, Biden and Trudeau landed this week in a New Mexican airport within the outskirts of the capital that AMLO not too long ago launched. It was a really controversial undertaking, for a lot of causes, and controversial inside the Mexican populace. However what you noticed with that small element of the itinerary is a delicate endorsement that AMLO tried to safe for an area undertaking from the president of the US.

And so that you’re seeing a doubtlessly comparable scenario on the safety entrance with the son of El Chapo and Biden ought to leverage that to make sure, one, that once more, that the extradition goes by way of, and two, that this doesn’t have some type of impact on the US’ capacity to leverage different safety points on fentanyl, and once more, the dynamic industries that the cartels are benefiting from primarily based on open border insurance policies.

2. North America’s Financial Relationship Takes Heart Stage

Allen: And with the summit of North American leaders kicking off right now, now we have Biden, and Obrador, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sitting down. We all know, and as you will have talked about, one of many conversations that they’re going to be having is round economics, is round commerce and people points. What would you prefer to see them deal with and speak about? And what do you suppose are a few of these doubtless financial points that they’re going to say, “We now have to speak about this”?

Haydar: So, this has additionally garnered quite a lot of consideration, particularly from these following Mexico, at the least within the final 12 months. And it’s one other level, Virginia, the place AMLO has leverage right here, with out want, as a result of the US is able to leverage tariffs and different factors there on the diplomacy entrance and within the extremely dynamic financial relationship with AMLO, as we noticed, for instance, with the Trump administration that leveraged tariffs on AMLO to see cooperation and outcomes observe, on immigration and on commerce, with the USMCA.

Now what we’re seeing, sadly, is AMLO, principally, in his pursuit of an ideological agenda, domestically waging conflict on U.S. buyers, notably within the vitality sector, in a lot of agricultural commodity sectors.

We’ve seen tariffs which were raised and which are anticipated to observe additionally within the subsequent few months in 2023. We’re seeing an outright protectionist coverage, not even for Mexican business, Virginia, however for the Mexican state, to take over massive sectors of the vitality business, of electrical energy and oil particularly are the 2 massive sectors at play right here, on the expense of home and overseas buyers, importantly right here from the US and Canada.

And so all of this in some ways to fund AMLO’s home social agenda, as he builds a political base for the long run right here.

We’re seeing right here one other difficulty, for instance, on the vitality entrance, particularly is AMLO is anticipated to request that the Biden administration present funds right here or launch funds by way of growth banks, the place the US has leverage, for state-run clear vitality initiatives, or so-called clear vitality initiatives in Northern Mexico.

Once more, to subsidize the Mexican state on this case, because it wages a commerce conflict basically, or a one-sided commerce conflict in opposition to U.S. buyers and U.S. residents, on this case would completely undermine broader U.S. pursuits and is completely one-sided. There could be no outcome that comes out of that, aside from to maintain pushing an ideological agenda.

However once more, we will’t underestimate simply the influence of this for main U.S. commerce curiosity. It is a top-three buying and selling companion for the US, and particularly with buyers and American firms alongside U.S. border states which are extremely affected by this within the oil sector and others, we have to see a reversal of coverage by AMLO, principally offering ensures to U.S. firms that the Mexican bureaucratic equipment received’t be used in opposition to them by the way in which of circumventing Mexican regulation to overregulate, to principally not present licenses and permits, and to cease them from working in these sectors.

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The looming query right here when it comes to President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau is whether or not they may transfer ahead with utilizing USMCA-prescribed protocols to take motion in opposition to AMLO’s clear violations of the USMCA and violations, fairly frankly, of Mexican regulation in some instances in opposition to American buyers. However once more, that has been slow-rolled for over a 12 months, largely due to the immigration difficulty.

And so principally the notion there’s that the Biden administration, to safe some type of cooperation from AMLO on immigration, although that clearly isn’t mirrored within the general numbers, he has principally been prepared to delay any motion on the Mexican state’s intervention right here on commerce.

We may even see that change, once more, going into a brand new 12 months post-midterms. However once more, there hasn’t been a transparent message despatched right here that that is one other top-line concern and that the US, once more, is prepared to leverage tariffs as properly or the instruments at its disposal, principally, to point out that we’re the larger participant that we’re right here.

3. A Crackdown on Commerce With China?

Allen: Mateo, we’ve heard that there are expectations that these leaders are going to speak about how North America can begin to reduce on its dependence on China, particularly in relation to this difficulty of commerce. Do you will have any expectation that there might be some type of concrete answer that these three leaders come to some type of technique of how they’ll strategically reduce on commerce with China?

Haydar: Yeah, there are a selection of avenues, Virginia, that they could take right here. AMLO is clearly capitalizing on this as a priority inside the American public, and as a part of the controversy in the US on the China entrance, principally to make requests of the Biden administration, notably, as I discussed, on the clear vitality entrance.

And he’s framing that as a China competitors angle, apparently so. And in addition on assist for semiconductor, provide chain, near-shoring, and reshoring, and for principally discovering a option to plug Mexico into the shift of provide chain growth for semiconductors stateside, which we’re seeing a push from the Biden administration and from Congress particularly on this difficulty.

They might discover a means, once more, to develop some type of formal settlement inside the USMCA framework, or they could be pushing for some type of subsidy additionally, once more, to plug Mexican business into this commerce and to broaden general funding on semiconductors inside Mexico.

The priority right here is, once more, that AMLO doesn’t make a request that follows by way of, notably if it’s costing the U.S. taxpayer greenback, and notably, additionally, if there’s options which are less expensive and nonetheless inside the parameters of the top-line concern of U.S. nationwide safety, whether or not that’s reshoring right here at dwelling or discovering different companions within the area that could be less expensive.

Mexico is well-positioned to learn from the shifting of provide chains from China, once more, as a top-line choice there for cooperation on the China entrance. The difficulty right here, once more, has been AMLO’s insurance policies on the home entrance.

So if there aren’t any ensures for U.S. buyers on this entrance, what we don’t wish to see is the Biden administration launch some type of plan that subsidizes the Mexican state right here indirectly with out as an alternative, one, looking for U.S. buyers, because the companion of alternative right here, but in addition guaranteeing that the AMLO administration is offering ensures of reforms and on the legislative aspect, but in addition on the regulatory entrance, to make sure that buyers are in a market-friendly setting to compete and to know that the principles of the sport received’t be altering each one or two years.

In order that’s the most important problem there when it comes to financial composition with China.

There’s different points at play, once more, that always get neglected, and that shouldn’t. I discussed unlawful and unregulated fishing as an enormous difficulty additionally for Mexico. Huawei and telecommunications as a sector and digital transformation efforts that China is pushing everywhere in the area, Mexico isn’t any exception, and there’s a much bigger danger there with Mexico due to … the scale of its market, but in addition its proximity, clearly, to the US.

Should you take a look at different situations of U.S. nice energy competitors and of looming threats from the Soviet Union and others up to now, they’ve appeared to Mexico as a hub for espionage and for intelligence gathering. And in order that shouldn’t escape the dialog when it comes to contemplating the advances on the telecommunications entrance with Huawei initiatives. And once more, on our finish, having some type of an alternate that’s thought of in these initiatives and that’s, once more, at the least mentioned by the president of the US as an indication of management.

Allen: Properly, Mateo, it’s going to be actually fascinating to see what are the precise finish outcomes that come out of this summit and what are the steps that the president of the US, in fact, and of Mexico, and the prime minister of Canada truly take because of this. However Mateo, we actually respect your time right now. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us.

Haydar: Thanks, Virginia.

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