Obama, Peña Nieto Pledge Close Ties In White House Meeting

Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

President Barack Obama welcomed Mexico President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto into the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon, pledging close cooperation on issues like trade and immigration reform.

Obama noted the contributions of Mexican Americans to the United States and said that the country has emerged as an influential nation on the global stage, making America's relations with Mexico even more important.

"We meet early with the president of Mexico because it represents the close relationship between the U.S. and Mexico," Obama said.

The president expressed confidence that he could build a strong personal and professional relationship with Peña Nieto and said he looked forward to working on issues like the border, immigration reform, trade, and "common security issues." He called Mexico an important "multilateral and multinational partner."

Obama noted that he was sending Vice President Joe Biden to attend his inauguration in Mexico City (the vice president is the highest officeholder the U.S. typically sends to inaugurations of foreign leaders).

"We only send the vice president to inaugurations when the country is really at the top of the list," Obama said. "We look forward to an excellent relationship for years to come."

Peña Nieto congratulated Obama on winning a second term and also spoke about deepening economic cooperation and trade ties, mentioning the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that the U.S., Mexico, and other nations are negotiating with Asian countries.

"This is an opportunity for us to have a closer link of brotherhood, and sisterhood, and collaboration," he said through a translator.

The president-elect mentioned his nation's war against drug cartels briefly, only to say that he is putting forth a proposal to reduce violence.

Peña Nieto told Obama his incoming government "support[s] your proposals" on immigration reform.

"We want to contribute to the accomplishment so we can participate in the betterment of millions of people in your country," he said.

Peña Nieto invited Obama to make a state visit to Mexico during his second term and the U.S. president seemed receptive to the idea.

"Any excuse to go to Mexico I'm always game," Obama said. "In fact, I'm jealous of Joe Biden."

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“I think it would be fair to recognize their efforts, and grant them an immigration reform that would allow them to live legally in the United States.” Krauze asked Peña Nieto whether it was time for Mexico, which has millions of undocumented citizens living in the United States, to pressure the U.S. to move forward, he emphasized that immigration reform was an internal U.S. problem, in which the Mexican government did not want to interfere.