Blinken Pledges Cooperation in ‘Virtual Trips’ to Mexico, Canada

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged deeper cooperation with Mexico and Canada in what the U.S. billed as “virtual travel” to its two neighbors, an effort to emphasize the Biden administration’s engagement with allies who were sometimes snubbed during the Trump years.

Hours after Blinken’s Friday trip -- really just a series of video calls with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, as well as U.S. embassy staff -- the White House announced that President Joe Biden’ would hold a virtual meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday.

Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met in a similar fashion earlier this week. The White House said that Biden and Lopez Obrador, who is known as AMLO, would discuss “cooperation on migration, joint development efforts in Southern Mexico and Central America” as well as “Covid-19 recovery.”

Blinken Pledges Cooperation in ‘Virtual Trips’ to Mexico, Canada

Blinken, in his sessions, addressed the pandemic, promoting democratic values and discussing climate change.

“In all of these meetings I spoke with my counterparts in Mexico and Canada about the pandemic,” Blinken said. He said a key focus would be Biden’s “Build Back Better” campaign and reviving the global economy after the devastation wrought by the pandemic.

The meeting was entirely virtual in keeping with the Biden administration’s effort to show how seriously it’s taking restrictions governing work and travel amid the pandemic. Unlike his predecessor Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who slowed but didn’t halt travel, Blinken has yet to make visits to other countries in the weeks since he became top U.S. diplomat.

While the emphasis was on comity, the U.S. does have disputes with both sides. Canada is unhappy with Biden’s decision, made in the opening days of his administration, to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline. That and other issues were discussed during this week’s virtual meeting between Biden and Trudeau.

Lopez Obrador has sought to clamp down on private competition to state-owned companies, saying in October that he intends to protect the interests of the state oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and the electricity company Comision Federal de Electricidad.

Blinken Pledges Cooperation in ‘Virtual Trips’ to Mexico, Canada

A State Department spokesman, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said U.S.-Mexico energy trade and investment are important parts of ensuring energy security on the continent but declined to comment further.

“I believe when we work together, we can face challenges in an easier way, creating synergies so that things can progress,” Mexican Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier said at the start of their meeting on Friday.

At a briefing after the meetings, Blinken reiterated the administration’s stance that the U.S. is still reviewing its migration and asylum policy with Mexico and warned people not to risk the journey to seek asylum.

“This is not the time to come, not the time to make a hazardous journey because you will not be able to come into the United States,” Blinken told reporters at a briefing.

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