US, Mexico, and Canada will hold their first high-level summit in five years

(FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Edgard Garrido)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hold their first in-person meeting in Washington on Nov. 18, Mexico’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The meeting, which will be the first summit held by the three countries in five years, will address issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting the competitiveness of supply chains in North America, foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

Mexico will also be focusing on economic development in southern Mexico and Central America, Ebrard told a regular government news conference alongside Lopez Obrador.

Mexico’s announcement confirmed a report by Reuters on Tuesday that the meeting was planned for Nov. 18.

It also came a day after the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, said that he hoped concerns could be resolved which the United States and private companies have expressed over a Mexican legislative initiative to reform the electricity market.

The bill still in Congress championed by Lopez Obrador seeks to give precedence to Mexico’s state-owned energy companies over private firms, and the leftist president was asked at the news conference if he would address the matter in Washington.

Lopez Obrador said it was not on the agenda, but that if it did come up, he would explain to Biden that Mexico was taking steps to ensure consumers were not subjected to price hikes.

The president argues that past Mexican governments rigged the electricity market in favor of private capital at the expense of consumers and the Mexican state.

Aside from taking part in the leaders’ three-way meeting, Lopez Obrador would also hold bilateral talks with Biden and Trudeau in Washington, Ebrard said.

Mexico was scheduled to host the following summit of the North American leaders in 2023, he added.

The leaders started holding what is informally known as the Three Amigos summit in 2005 and met most years until 2016. The practice ended when U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.

The countries are bound together by the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) free trade agreement that governs some $1.5 trillion in North American trade annually.