OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico convened a summit Wednesday intended to reaffirm their close cooperation on security, the environment and trade at a time of rising extremist threats around the globe and isolationist calls in the American presidential campaign.
President Barack Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at the North American Leaders' Summit.
The meeting came as Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president, blamed globalization for the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs and threatened to extricate the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement, in effect since 1994. Trump on Tuesday also pledged that as president, he would withdraw from an agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that has yet to take effect. And it was only last week that Britain voted to leave the European Union, highlighting fears about globalization. Trump also has advocated building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting millions of immigrants living illegally in the U.S.
Obama, before meeting with Pena Nieto, emphasized America's ties with Mexico and said that the character of the U.S. has been shaped by Mexican Americans who have influenced its culture, politics, and business.
"At a time when we all too often are hearing rhetoric that ignores the enormous contributions that have been made by Mexicans-Americans and the enormous strengths that we draw from the relationship with our good neighbor's to the south, it's been useful for us to reaffirm all the issues we've been working on together," Obama said.
Pena Nieto stressed the need for economic co-operation among countries.
"We must acknowledge that isolationism cannot bring prosperity to a society," he said. "It is from a collective effort between the countries that are located in one same region."
Earlier, Trudeau pointed to the North American example of economic integration and warned of the risks of protectionism and nationalism.
"Better collaboration, better partnerships are a path to prosperity," Trudeau said Tuesday. "And that's a compelling example that we want to showcase at a time where, unfortunately, people are prone to turning inwards which will unfortunately be at the cost of economic growth and their own success."
Trudeau and Pena Nieto announced measures to reduce barriers during the Mexican leader's state visit to Canada before the summit. Trudeau said Canada will lift visa requirements for Mexican visitors as of December 2016. Pena Nieto agreed to open Mexican markets to Canadian beef.
Obama also planned to address the Canadian Parliament — the ninth American leader to do so and the first since Bill Clinton in 1995.
The attack on a Turkish airport in which 41 people died Tuesday added to the urgency of discussions about how the three countries can work together to enhance security. Obama said he spoke with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and called the images from the scene heartbreaking.
"We will not rest until we have dismantled these networks of hate that have an impact on the entire civilized world," Obama said.
Efforts to curb global warming were a big part of the summit. The leaders pledged to rely on renewable energy to generate 50 percent of North America's electrical power by 2025 and Mexico would commit to joining the United States and Canada in tackling methane emissions.
Obama adviser Brian Deese said it was an unprecedented effort to develop a continentwide strategy on climate change and that the U.S. has the tools it needs, including tax credits for renewables, to reach the target.