News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. July 9, 2020: Latin American giant Mexico saw nearly 900 deaths from coronavirus Wednesday as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump for the first time.
The leftist leader brushed off criticism at home to push ahead with plans to meet Trump, a Republican widely disliked in Mexico because of his incendiary remarks about its people.
The meeting aimed to celebrate the start of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal, but disputes over energy sector contracts in Mexico could arise as the two men got together in the afternoon.
Mindful of the coronavirus pandemic, which is still surging in Mexico and the United States, the two did not shake hands as they met outside the White House but neither wore face masks.
The USMCA was crafted in long negotiations headed by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer.
Lopez Obrador’s government is slowly rolling back a 2013-14 opening of the energy industry in favor of a state-led model, and has called a number of major contracts into question.
Lopez Obrador was joined by a delegation of business officials, including Mexico’s richest man, telecoms magnate Carlos Slim. They dined on Wednesday evening with Trump and American business executives at the White House.
Lopez Obrador’s critics and some U.S. Democrats say Trump wants to use the meeting to drum up support among Hispanic voters ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Opinion polls show Hispanic voters favor Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Lopez Obrador will not meet Biden on the trip.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reuters contributed to this story (Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Dave Graham and David Lawder Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Peter Cooney and Alistair Bell)