44 The Obama Presidency
Obama Meets with Mexican President Calderon
By Michael A. Fletcher
President-elect Barack Obama met today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, telling reporters after their luncheon session that "my administration is going to be ready on day one to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico."
Holding his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since his November election, Obama credited Calderon for battling his nation's murderous drug cartels and for his work on economic issues.
"It has been especially gratifying to me to participate in this meeting because I'm such an admirer of the work that president Calderon has done," Obama said after the 90-minute session at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington. "Not only has he shown leadership in the economy but he has shown extraordinary courage and leadership when it comes to the security issues, dealing with drug trafficking, dealing with the violence that has existed as a consequence of the drug trade."
Obama was joined at the meeting by Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel, Gen. Jim Jones, his choice for national security adviser, and Lawrence H. Summers, one of his top economic advisers. Obama said he wants to forge close ties with Mexico, although as a candidate he also promised to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade agreement, which removed trade barriers among the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Neither Obama nor Calderon mentioned NAFTA during their brief remarks to reporters. The 1993 agreement has helped expand Mexican trade with the U.S., but it is blamed by many labor leaders and others in the U.S. with accelerating the flight of manufacturing jobs south of the border.
Obama said he and Calderon also discussed immigration, the global financial crisis, and energy issues. "One of the things that's particularly exciting is the leadership that Mexico under President Calderon's administration has already taken on the issue of energy," Obama said. "This is an area of great interest to me, I believe that the future of the economy is going to rest on how we're able to adapt to a potential crisis with climate change."
The meeting continued a longstanding tradition of president-elects meeting with Mexican leaders. Meanwhile, Obama transition officials have said that Obama would make Canada the destination of his first international trip.Transition aides offered no information on the date for the trip or its agenda.
"President-elect Obama looks forward to his visit to Canada," said Brooke Anderson, Obama's chief national security spokesperson. "It will be the first foreign trip of his presidency, underscoring the importance o the relationship between the United States and Canada."
Canada is often the first foreign destination for newly elected U.S. presidents. But shortly after President George W. Bush was sworn in 2001, he visited Mexico, deviating from that tradition.
Posted at 6:43 PM ET on Jan 12, 2009
44 The Obama Presidency
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