MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s incoming president on Tuesday thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for his “respectful attitude” toward the next Mexican administration and held out hope for joint progress on tackling illegal migration ahead of a major meeting this week.
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is due to meet on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others for talks in Mexico City.
The meeting will be the first major face-to-face discussions between Lopez Obrador and his team and U.S. officials since the leftist won a landslide victory on July 1.
The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador, who will replace outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto as Mexico’s leader on Dec. 1, said the fact Trump was sending several top officials to Mexico offered grounds for optimism about the upcoming relationship.
Lopez Obrador wants to persuade Trump to help foster economic development in Mexico and Central America to complement the affected countries’ own steps to create better living conditions for their people in order to reduce migration.
“We want to make that the key focus of the relationship with the U.S. government and are grateful that it’s understood this way, and there are signs with the Treasury Secretary’s visit that we can reach a deal for development, and job creation and welfare,” Lopez Obrador told reporters in Mexico City. “This is what matters most to us, and what we will press for most.”
Ties between the neighboring countries have been strained under Trump and Pena Nieto due to the American’s insistence that Mexico pay for his planned border wall, as well as his push to rework the NAFTA trade deal to the United States’ advantage.
Lopez Obrador and Trump, both regarded as political mavericks, spoke by telephone after the Mexican’s victory.
The subject of the wall did not come up in their call, nor was it on the agenda for Friday’s talks, said Marcelo Ebrard, Lopez Obrador’s pick to be Mexican foreign minister.
Lopez Obrador offered thanks for the “respectful attitude of President Donald Trump” and what he described as the interest shown in reaching a mutual understanding. He also reiterated that he wanted the North American Free Trade Agreement to be maintained.
Various nominees to serve in Lopez Obrador’s cabinet will sit down alongside ministers from the current Mexican administration during Friday’s talks, which will also include U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Ebrard said.
Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by James Dalgleish