U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexico's Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at their arrival to a press conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday after a three-hour tripartite summit at which the trio of leaders agreed to continue promoting regional security and economic well-being. (EFE)
U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexico's Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday concluded a summit that highlighted their commitment to greater cooperation on security and economic advancement in North America.
The meeting, postponed from November 2011, took place at the White House and ran for a little more than three hours focusing on matters such as fighting organized crime, job creation and the competitiveness of and within the region.
"We agreed to continue making our borders more efficient and more secure so it's faster and cheaper to travel and trade," Obama said at a Rose Garden press conference with Calderón and Harper.
Calderón received the backing of the United States and Canada for his anti-drug fight, which since December 2006 has resulted in some 50,000 deaths.
The Mexican leader warned that "if the traffic (of illegal weapons from the United States) is not halted" and Washington doesn't reinstate a ban on assault weapons, it will be "impossible" to quell the violence in his country.
Robert Pastor, an expert on North American affairs at American University in Washington, said that the summit is a sign of the commitment Washington has to trade integration in North America.
"While many focus on China's rise and Europe's fall, few seem to realize that our first and second largest markets in the world and largest sources of energy imports are Canada and Mexico," Pastor said.
The three NAFTA partners must take concrete steps toward greater competitiveness, reducing impediments along their borders, fostering educational opportunities and creating a common vision that strengthens tripartite cooperation, he added.
But the meeting produced little that was new beyond allowing the participants to express well-known stances and to emphasize, in a joint declaration, that the "main priorities" of the three countries are "broad and sustainable economic growth and the creation of jobs."
The conclave in Washington was a precursor to the 6th Summit of the Americas that will be held on April 14-15 in Cartagena, Colombia, where the heads of state and government of 34 nations in the hemisphere will gather.