June 24, 2020 / 2:03 PM / 18 days ago

Mexican president says Trump meeting likely in July, urges Canada to join

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president said on Wednesday it is “very probable” he will meet with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Washington in July to mark the start of a new North American trade deal, and urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to join them.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico June 24, 2020. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

“We want the prime minister of Canada, Trudeau, to take part as well,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular morning news conference.

The Canadian government had no immediate comment. Trump on Tuesday said a meeting was likely. A White House official said planning was under way but that a specific date had not yet been set.

Lopez Obrador in April floated the idea of meeting Trump, but had recently talked down the prospect of an in-person encounter, suggesting they might talk via videoconference.

Some Mexican officials are privately skeptical about the benefits of a meeting with Trump, who is widely disliked in Mexico due to broadsides he fired off in his presidential campaign, calling Mexican migrants rapists and drug traffickers.

The Mexican opposition and even some inside the ruling party have criticized Lopez Obrador for yielding to Trump on migration and security after the U.S. president threatened to slap trade tariffs on Mexico if it did not tighten up its border.

The latest developments came after Trump on Tuesday visited the border wall his government is building and thanked the Mexican leader for deploying more than 20,000 soldiers to prevent immigrants from other countries from crossing into U.S. territory.

He called Lopez Obrador “a really great guy,” and said he expected the Mexican leader to visit the White House “pretty soon.”

Critics in Mexico see such comments as patronizing and feel a summit puts Lopez Obrador at risk of appearing overly obedient to Trump’s demands.

Jorge Castaneda, a former foreign minister of Mexico, called the planned trip a “dumb idea” in a recent interview with Reuters and warned that it could additionally be seen as favoring the U.S. president in an election year.

Lopez Obrador said he wanted the meeting to be about the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal taking effect between the three countries on July 1.

“As it’s going to be in Washington, we’re waiting for the U.S. government to invite the Canadian government,” he said. “And that Canada is in agreement. In any case, we will attend.”

The meeting would not take place on July 1, but could come “immediately after,” Lopez Obrador said.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Raul Cortes Fernandez; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Dave Graham and Jonathan Oatis

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