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Mexico president says meeting with Biden friendly, positive

Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Tuesday that he had no differences with U.S. President Joe Biden in their first bilateral meeting a day earlier and that his American counterpart was open to exploring his proposals on a temporary worker program and helping Mexico obtain more vaccine.

López Obrador characterized the meeting as “friendly, respectful and with a lot of emphasis on cooperation for development.” He said he didn’t come away with a deal for the U.S. to help Mexico obtain more COVID-19 vaccine, but said he wasn’t denied either.

“Teams from both countries are going to explore all possibilities for cooperation in this area” to see “what is possible and when,” López Obrador said.

Ahead of the meeting, White House officials reiterated that Biden remained focused on first vaccinating U.S. citizens before turning his attention to assisting other nations. López Obrador acknowledged Biden may have to first vaccinate most of the U.S. population, but said there was an openness to the subject.

There were questions ahead of the meeting about how the two leaders would get along. López Obrador had a surprisingly warm relationship with former President Donald Trump that revolved almost exclusively around Mexico’s efforts to stop migrants from reaching the U.S. border.

But López Obrador said Tuesday there was a lot of laughter in the one hour and 15-minute conversation with Biden that covered nearly all of the main issues in the bilateral relationship.

“There were not any differences, I’m telling you categorically, not a single one,” López Obrador said.

On immigration, López Obrador said he proposed the U.S. analyze how many workers its economy requires and then design a plan for temporary worker visas that would allow Mexicans and Central Americans to migrate legally for work. “And it’s going to be studied,” he said. Before the meeting, López Obrador has floated a scale of 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American workers annually.

It could be modeled on the original Bracero program, which allowed Mexicans to work temporarily in the United States to fill labor shortages during World War II and for a couple of decades after the war.

Biden and López Obrador have both stressed the importance of developing northern Central America and southern Mexico to address migration. The Mexican president said Biden repeated his proposal to destine $4 billion for that purpose in the region.

“We recognize that is a good move to have taken this decision,” he said.

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