Obama vows 'positive agenda' with Latin America in second term

“We've done a lot of work with the previous Mexican administration on security issues and on economic issues. But sometimes the relationship gets characterized just as being about borders or just as being about drug cartels,” Obama said. “There's so much more to the relationship-- in terms of commerce, in terms of trade, in terms of energy. And so we want to highlight some of the close cooperation that's already been taking place and to continue to build on that -- so that we're creating more jobs and more opportunity on both sides of the borders.”

Obama's planned meeting with newly elected President Enrique Peña Nieto comes as the State Department is preparing to send to Congress a bilateral oil exploration deal in the Gulf of Mexico that has already cleared the Mexican Senate. Mexico has also been pressing for rapid action on immigration reform, which stands to benefit the estimated 7 million Mexicans in the country illegally.

Obama said he also looked forward to meeting Central American leaders.

“One of the most important things that we can do to continue to strengthen the hemisphere is to strengthen the cooperation between us and our Central American and Caribbean partners. There's enormous talent and enormous opportunity there that has not been tapped,” he said. “And so I'm looking forward to having a couple of days of important consultations and emphasizing, underscoring how important it is for us within this Western Hemisphere to be able to strengthen our economic ties.”

“That will be good for all the parties concerned. It'll be good for the peoples in all these countries. They'll have a greater chance of success and opportunity. And when you have more opportunity, more success, it solves a lot of these other problems. You start seeing lower –  you know, rates of crime and drug violence. You start seeing fewer problems with respect to undocumented immigration, because people have opportunities in their own countries. So we want to make sure that we're pushing forward that positive agenda,” Obama said.