Obama: No 'senior partners' in relationship with Latin America

President Obama continued his Latin American charm offensive on Saturday, telling Central American business leaders that he wants a relationship of equals with America's southern neighbors.

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Wrapping up a three-day visit to Mexico and Costa Rica, Obama reiterated his calls for cross-border cooperation to boost jobs and the economy on both sides of the Rio Grande. He called for joint investments in border infrastructure as a way to save money at a time of budget shortfalls while rooting out security risks.

“The main message I have is the United States recognizes that our fates are tied up with your success,” Obama said at a forum on Inclusive Economic Growth and Development in Costa Rica following his meeting with central American government leaders. “We don't think there's senior partners or junior partners in that partnership. It's a partnership based on equality and mutual respect and mutual interests.”

Obama said his administration had two goals to take full advantage of the growing trade ties between the United States and Latin America, a rapidly growing region: comprehensive immigration reform and joint border security infrastructure projects on both borders.

“One of the arguments that we've made in pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said, “is that you can't separate out the dangers or challenges or concerns of a border from the enormous opportunities that a well-managed, well-regulated border represents."

“Let's make sure we have a sound system of immigration and customs and regulatory environment in cooperation with Canada and Mexico. And as much as possible, eases the flow of goods and people and services that are legitimate.”

Throughout his trip, Obama urged Congress to get immigration reform done “this year.” Reform advocates hope a bipartisan Senate bill will get an overwhelming majority in the coming weeks, creating pressure on House GOP leaders to bring the bill to a vote despite objections from some conservative Republicans who oppose a pathway to citizenship for the millions of immigrants in the country illegally.