North American summit: leaders to discuss Mexico’s drug war

Added by on April 2, 2012

US President Barack Obama hosted the leaders of Mexico and Canada at the White House on Monday for a North American summit, against a backdrop of the vicious drug war in Mexico and escalating violence along the border.

Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, and Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, joined Obama to discuss the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which seeks to integrate the economies of the three countries.

Mexico’s drug war is hurting trade, with the drug cartels fighting for control of routes into the United States and Mexico suffering from the arms from the US flowing south.

Immediately upon taking office in 2006, Calderon launched an attack on drug trafficking cartels. But the violence only increased, with the toll from drug-related violence rising to more than 50,000 people during the past six years.

Another issue expected to be on the agenda during the leaders’ private meeting: the controversial US$7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada that Obama delayed pending further environmental and safety reviews.

The Canadian prime minister expressed “profound disappointment” at the decision and warned that he would look to other markets such as China to sell Canada’s oil production.

In the coming months the leaders, who have met regularly at international conferences, are reportedly headed down different electoral paths. Obama faces a tough re-election battle. Calderon has served the maximum term as President and will leave office in December.

Harper, who has led Canada since 2006, appears secure in his job, having led his Conservatives from minority status to a majority in Parliament in elections last May. He doesn’t have to face voters again for four years This meeting, called the “Three Amigos” summit, comes just two weeks before the broader Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.