U.S. Vice President Joe Biden touted immigration reform and trade with Mexico during talks with President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City on Friday, skirting a thorny spying scandal.
Visiting the southern neighbor four months after U.S. President Barack Obama, Biden sought to put the focus again on economic ties between the neighboring nations rather than security and the battle against drug cartels.
“Mr President, you and I have continued our conversation on security,” Biden said at a press conference alongside Pena Nieto.
“But we also agree that no part of our relationship is more important than expanding economic opportunity to improve the lives of our citizens.”
Biden met with the Mexican leader after chairing the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue, a forum aimed at deepening two-way trade that already amounts to $500 billion a year.
Later, Biden stressed that the U.S. administration backs legislation stalling in Congress to bring 11 million undocumented migrants out of the shadows, most of them from Mexico.
Giving them a path to citizenship is “a matter of justice, respect and dignity,” the US vice president said.
“It’s also in the overwhelming economic interest of both our countries that we do this.”
For his part, Pena Nieto called for a “more flexible, fluid and secure” border to facilitate commerce between the two neighbors.
With Mexico battered by storms that killed around 100 people, Biden offered U.S. assistance for the recovery efforts.
But the two officials made no mention of recent allegations that the U.S. government snooped on Pena Nieto’s emails when he was running for office last year.
Pena Nieto discussed the issue with Obama at a G20 summit in Russia this month and the U.S. leader promised an investigation into the report, which was based on leaks by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was also reportedly spied on by the United States, postponed a long-planned visit to the White House that had been planned for next month.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]