The “Three Amigos” gathering of the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Thursday will be missing one of the staples of the summit: the joint news conference featuring all three leaders.
It’s the first in-person gathering of the leaders since 2016, before Donald Trump was elected president. Mr. Trump’s relationship with the Canadian and Mexican leaders was strained by the tariffs he imposed, although later, he and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador grew friendlier. That wasn’t the case with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom Mr. Trump famously disparaged as “two-faced.”
Mr. Biden pitched himself as the return of normalcy and tradition when running for office against Mr. Trump, so skipping the press conference came as something of a surprise to White House reporters this week. In all eight summits held since their inception in 2005, there has been a trilateral press conference. Former President Obama hosted press conferences with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in 2012, as did former President Bush in 2008 and 2005.
At that last 2016 news conference, reporters were able to ask tough, even uncomfortable questions of Mr. Obama, Trudeau, and then Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — in particular, about their responses to Mr. Trump’s GOP nomination, victory and the future relations between the U.S. and Mexico on issues like NAFTA and migration.
“Whoever becomes the president of the United States is going to have a deep, strong interest in having a strong relationship with Mexico. It’s our neighbor, our friend and one of our biggest trading partners,” Mr. Obama said at the time. “I think I’ve made myself clear, setting aside whatever the candidates are saying, that America is a nation of immigrants. That’s our strength.”
Without a press conference Thursday, Mr. Biden will not be forced to answer questions about his decision to continue with Title 42, a controversial public health policy used at the Mexican border to rapidly expel migrants based on concerns about COVID-19. Mr. Biden has been roundly criticized by progressives and immigration advocates for continuing to rely on it to try to keep the numbers at the border down. A U.S. District Court judge in Texas has also determined the Biden administration improperly ended the “Remain in Mexico Policy.”
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