By Susan Crabtree - 08/09/09 04:18 PM EDT
Leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico – the trio known as “the three amigos” – gathered in Mexico on Sunday to begin a summit that will likely focus on such vexing issues as drug-cartel violence, immigration, economic recovery and the swine flu.
President Barack Obama had a Sunday afternoon meeting scheduled with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Guadalajara. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will then join Obama and Calderon for dinner Sunday evening, with Harper not even scheduled to have one-on-one time with Obama during the speedy summit.
All three leaders will share their strategies on how best to reverse the international economic downturn, keeping trade between the three countries flowing and combating Mexican drug-cartel violence, which has been seeping into the United States and even affects drug trafficking up into Canada.
Specifically, Calderon is expected to try to push Obama to resolve a cross-border trucking dispute that has lingered between the two nations for years. The issue flared earlier this year when Obama signed a bill canceling a program allowing Mexican trucks to operate beyond the U.S. border zone. The North American Free Trade Agreement allows Mexican trucks to operate in the United States, but American trucking companies have argued that they aren’t safe.
Obama is also expected to hear complaints from his North American counterparts about "buy American" provisions in the $787 billion economic stimulus package. Calderon and Harper forged an agreement to work against the protectionist measures before Obama even signed the bill.
Drug violence has increased along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years despite the efforts of Calderon and the Mexican military to crack down on the gangs and cartels caught in a cycle of retaliatory killings.
Obama has pledged his full support, but Mexican officials have complained that promised anti-drug equipment and training have been delayed too long and are critical to their interdiction efforts.
The leaders also have said they would issue a statement on the H1N1 swine flu and address climate change in anticipation of talks planned to take place in December in Copenhagen.