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Americas

Obama begins his first North American leaders' summit

Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-10

US President Barack Obama has arrived in Mexico for his first summit of North American leaders. The summit in Mexico opens amid a wave of suspected drug attacks which have left almost 10,000 dead since the start of 2008.

AFP - US President Barack Obama began his first summit of North American leaders in Mexico Sunday, with the economic crisis and swine flu on an agenda overshadowed by Mexican drug violence.
  
Hours before the summit began, an armed commando shot dead a lawyer known for her work defending suspected drug smugglers in north Mexico, amid a wave of suspected drug attacks which have left almost 10,000 dead since the start of 2008.
  
Mexican President Felipe Calderon was expected to seek more support for his controversial military crackdown on organized crime and drug gangs during the two-day meeting.
  
Canada announced Sunday that it would increase training by its federal Mounted Police for Mexican officers as part of a new, 15-million-dollar security program for the Americas, as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Mexico.
  
"Supporting police training in Mexico is one of the most effective ways to fight organized crime and drug trafficking within Canada," said a statement from Harper's office.
  
The summit came amid criticism of alleged abuses by some of the 40,000 soldiers deployed across the country which could possibly delay the release of some US security aid to Mexico, and reports of growing Mexican drug gang activity across the United States, Canada and beyond.
  
Hundreds of soldiers and police deployed in Guadalajara for the meeting due to touch on issues from swine flu to protectionism in the closely-tied region of almost 450 million inhabitants.
  
"The purpose of this summit is for the president to have an opportunity to speak with his counterparts about issues of mutual concern, like H1N1 (flu) preparedness, economic competitiveness, security and also global climate change," White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One.
  
Obama met with Calderon on his arrival as part of bilateral meetings before a joint dinner, and three-way meetings on Monday.
  
Measures to boost the countries' flagging economies were a top priority.
  
Like the United States, Mexico has sunk deep into recession, with much of its industry tied to the worst-affected areas of the US economy -- cars and construction -- and migrant workers north of the border sending less money home.
  
Canada and Mexico -- the first and third-largest US trading partners -- were expected to pressure Obama over a "Buy American" clause in the US economic stimulus plan.
  
Mexico also sought to resolve an immigration dispute with Canada over the recent imposition of visas for Mexicans, and a trade dispute involving Mexican trucks operating in the United States, officials said here.
  
Mexico responded to the US cancellation of a program allowing some Mexican trucks on its territory -- in violation of NAFTA -- by slapping some 2.4 billion dollars in tariffs on 89 US products in March.
  
Several hundred people, from children to elderly farmers, marched in a peaceful demonstration Sunday to highlight diverse issues from anti-globalization to the coup in Honduras, US immigration policy, and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has linked the three nations for 15 years.
  

Date created : 2009-08-10

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