Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador agrees to spend $1.5 billion over the next two years to improve "smart" border technology during meeting with President Joe Biden.

Lopez Obrador boycotted last month's Summit of the Americas hosted in Los Angeles over US President Biden's refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Lopez Obrador boycotted last month's Summit of the Americas hosted in Los Angeles over US President Biden's refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. (Reuters)

A month after he snubbed Joe Biden's Americas summit, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has met with his US counterpart at the White House, with Mexico agreeing to invest $1.5B in "smart" border technology. 

Biden underscored on Tuesday the need to address "migration as a shared hemispheric challenge" in remarks ahead of the meeting, describing long-time ally and neighbour Mexico as an "equal partner."

He said his administration was expanding legal pathways for work in the United States from Mexico and Central America, citing "a record" of 300,000 temporary work visas issued for Mexican workers last year.

He thanked Lopez Obrador for "stepping up" and issuing visas for Central American migrants in Mexico.

The Mexican president called for a "bold programme" to tackle migration issues, calling on the United States — facing a labour shortage — to allow more skilled Mexican and Central American laborers into the country "to support" the workforce.

"It is indispensable for us to regularise and give certainty to migrants who for years have lived and worked in a very honest manner and are also contributing to the development of this great nation," he said.

The two leaders said in a joint statement after their meeting that Mexico had also committed to investing $1.5 billion in border infrastructure between 2022 and 2024.

READ MORE: Mexico caravan migrants get visas as they trek toward US

'Count on us always'

Human trafficking was also centre stage following the death late last month of more than 50 migrants — many of them Mexicans — abandoned in a scorching hot trailer in San Antonio, Texas.

The two leaders said in their joint statement that the San Antonio tragedy "further strengthens our determination to go after the multi-billion-dollar criminal smuggling industry preying on migrants and increase our efforts to address the root causes of migration."

Amid soaring inflation on both sides of the border, Lopez Obrador said he'd suggested suspending tariffs and regulations to "lower prices for consumers in both our countries."

He also floated a joint public-private investment plan to produce more goods.

The visit was Lopez Obrador's second to the White House since Biden took office last year, despite a sometimes tense relationship with his US counterpart.

Lopez Obrador boycotted in June the Summit of the Americas hosted in Los Angeles — where migration was again a key subject — over Biden's refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

However, he said Mexico had "trust" in Biden "because you respect our sovereignty."

"Count on us always," he added.

READ MORE: Mexico migrant caravan splits over journeying toward US

Source: AFP