Sept 9 (Reuters) – The United States and Mexico on Thursday resumed high-level economic talks for the first time in four years as the two sides signaled they need greater cooperation to combat the challenges of climate change, workers’ rights and immigration.
The so-called High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) will seek to pursue economic opportunities beyond the trade issues covered in the new North America trade agreement — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA — that took effect in 2020.
Vice President Kamala Harris noted much has happened since the last high-level economic talks, which former President Donald Trump ditched after he accused Mexico of sending criminals over the border. She said COVID has undermined the global economy while climate change and cyberattacks have threatened supply chains, requiring a unified response between the two countries.
“I’m confident that our nations will continue to work together, that our companies will continue to create jobs together and that our people will enjoy greater prosperity and a greater quality of life. Together, the United States and Mexico will set an example for what is possible in the Western Hemisphere,” Harris said.
The talks come as the two sides seek to find solutions to a number of controversial issues, including automotive rules requiring certain amounts of parts to be sourced in North America and the court-ordered resumption of the “Stay in Mexico” program, which sends asylum seekers outside the United States while their cases are processed.
“We have made clear that they can raise any issue of concern and that we would raise issues of concern, and that we would look to find ways to find constructive resolution on these issues,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
The two countries share a 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border and a commercial relationship that generates more than half a trillion dollars in annual bilateral trade, supporting millions of jobs in both countries.
Mexico and the United States have agreed on four pillars of focus for the high-level talks, and will approve an agenda on Thursday.
The first pillar is “building back together,” including a more resilient supply chain and modernizing the U.S.-Mexico border. The second is sustainable economic and social development in southern Mexico and Central America, a key policy aimed at tackling the economic causes that drive immigration to the United States.
“The only sustainable way to address irregular migration in the long term is to invest in communities that people do not want to leave,” the senior administration official said.
The final two pillars deal with cybersecurity and workforce development, among other things.
Mexico’s delegation includes Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier. For the United States, the talks will be led by Harris. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and others were in attendance.
Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler
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