Obama Tries to Reconcile Competing Interests in Meeting with Calderon

         President Obama tried to strike a balance between American and Mexican priorities when he met Sunday night with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Guadalajara, Mexico.

         While there was no movement on either of Mexico's largest concerns-- a trucking dispute and Mexico's drug war-- the two leaders had a "cordial" 45-minute meeting, says a senior Obama administration official.

         Mr. Obama expressed his "strong support" for President Calderon's efforts in fighting the pervasive and violent drug cartels which are affecting the security of both the US and Mexico. But the Mexican government says the delay of the implementation of the Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion US aid package intended to help Mexico combat traffickers, is holding back their cause.

         But President Obama wanted to assure Calderon the issue won't languish forever, "[The President] had expressed the desire to accelerate the implementation [of Merida] over the course of the last four months [since Obama last met Calderon]. We've seen significant progress on that front. That progress was discussed."

         Reflecting the other part of the story, Mr. Obama "underscored, as he has on a number of occasions, the importance of human rights for him, for the United States and frankly for Mexico." It's those human rights issues that has many concerned. Some say the Mexican crackdown is verging on abuse.

         Also weighing on Calderon's mind was the international trucking dispute, which is hurting Mexico's economy; already in a recession. Mexican trucks have been prohibited from bringing goods to US cities while many US goods are facing high retaliatory tariffs. Mr. Obama was noncommittal, "The President made clear his commitment to work with Congress to discuss legitimate safety concerns and to work to fulfill our international obligations," said the senior official.

         Aware that the issue has repercussions for both countries, the aide added, "There has been a clear understanding that this issue is one that is a priority issue and one that everyone would like to see resolved as quickly as possible."

         One concern both leaders are clearly in agreement on is the importance of dealing with the H1N1 flu virus. The two talked about it at length, pledging to work in harmony, as they have been since its outbreak.

         Overall, said the official, "It was a warm, friendly conversation. The two have a good personal relationship that they have developed over the last 8 months."

conversation. The two have a good personal relationship that they have developed over the last 8 months."