Mexico president says pitched plan to curb import reliance at leaders summit

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U.S. President Joe Biden, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meet for the North American Leaders' Summit (NALS) at the White House in Washington, U.S. November 18, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

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MEXICO CITY, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he proposed a plan last week to boost investment in North America to reduce reliance on foreign imports in his talks with U.S. President Joe Biden and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

During the summit in Washington, Lopez Obrador said if North America did not move to strengthen its economy, the region risked being left behind by China, and suggested Canada and the United States should make more use of migrant labor.

"I made a proposal to promote a program of productive investments in North America for the substitution of imports," Lopez Obrador told reporters at a news conference, citing a shortage of semi-conductors as an example.

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Lopez Obrador said he had also explored with Trudeau possible cooperation between Canadian and Mexican public sector energy companies in upgrading hydro-electric plants in Mexico.

He said pending mining issues with Canadian firms had gradually been resolved, and that he had explained to Trudeau why Mexico was seeking to bolster state control over the electricity market, a plan that has sparked U.S. concerns.

Noting Trudeau had been "very receptive" to his words, Lopez Obrador repeated his argument that private investors in renewable energy had "plundered" Mexico, and that concessions for oil production had been abused for "financial speculation."

With Biden, Lopez Obrador said he had discussed economic support for Central America aimed at curbing mass migration, and that investment was being planned for Honduras under a scheme known as 'sembrando oportunidades' ('planting opportunities') he added, likening it to a Mexican reforestation scheme.

"U.S. Vice President (Kamala) Harris also confirmed it," said Lopez Obrador, who also met her in Washington.

Mexico also proposed that the United States help on a program of "technological cooperation" to ensure the internet reached all of Mexico, and Harris had agreed, he said.

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Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Dan Grebler

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