World

Harper arrives in Mexico for summit

Leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States began a two-day summit in Mexico on Sunday to address a range of issues, including drugs, energy, trade, travel and the global economic downturn.
Soldiers stand guard next to the Cabanas Cultural Institute where the North American Leaders Summit will take place in Guadalajara. ((Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press))
Leaders of Canada, Mexico and the United States began a two-day summit in Mexico on Sunday to address a range of issues, including drugs, energy, trade, travel and the global economic downturn.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper gathered in Guadalajara for dinner Sunday night to be followed by three-way talks on Monday.

At the top of their agenda is where America's economic recovery is heading and how policies to boost growth will affect the three trading partners.

Another topic will be Canada's new visa rule for Mexicans and its impact on tourism and business. Ottawa announced last month that travellers from Mexico and the Czech Republic will need visas to enter Canada because of skyrocketing numbers of refugee claimants from the two countries.

The leaders will also grapple with the issue of Mexican gangs blamed for the flow of illegal drugs in North America and for 6,000 deaths last year.

As he arrived in Guadalajara, Harper pledged $400,000 that will send 30 RCMP officers to Mexico to train hundreds of Mexican police in a variety of areas, including undercover tactics. The announcement represented a friendly gesture following last month's new visa rule, which has incensed Mexicans.

On the trade front, they will talk about the "Buy America" provisions slipped into the $787-billion US stimulus package by the U.S. Congress last February. The campaign is intended to generate jobs within U.S. borders.

About 400 people from environmental groups and leftist political parties marched outside the North American Leaders Summit on Sunday to protest the negative effects of free trade and to demand immigration reform in the U.S.

They also demanded that Mexican labourers in a Second World War era guest-worker program receive the money withheld from their paycheques.

Several Canadian, Mexican and U.S. groups announced they would hold an alternate summit to discuss the "15 years of NAFTA's economic failures," referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The meeting will be Obama's first so-called "Three Amigos" summit. Former U.S. president George W. Bush kicked off the trilateral tradition in 2005 with the first summit, held near his Texas ranch.

Obama and Harper will meet again at the White House on Sept. 16, U.S. officials announced on Friday.

With files from The Associated Press

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