China’s Xi Jinping Visits Mexico – Weekly News Summary: June 7

Coffee by Flikr user samrevelThe Mexico Institute’s “Weekly News Summary,” released every Friday afternoon summarizes the week’s most prominent Mexico headlines published in the English-language press, as well as the most engaging opinion pieces by Mexican columnists.

What the English-language press had to say…        

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mexico as part of a three-day Latin American tour. The AP interpreted the encounter between Xi and Peña Nieto – the second one this year – as a move by China to profit from Mexico’s opening economy (i.e. energy sector) and an effort by Mexico to close its large trade deficit with China. USA Today argued the visit also represented a desire by both nations to improve relations following a series of recent setbacks, including President Felipe Calderón’s audience with the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government’s decision to quarantine Mexican tourists following the H1N1 outbreak. The Economist opted for a more cynical view, arguing China’s decision to visit America’s “free-trade partners” in the region was meant as a retaliatory move following the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.

Xi and Peña Nieto signed agreements on areas ranging from energy and mining to education and infrastructure. Increasing Chinese tourism to Mexico was one area of opportunity that the Mexican government seemed particularly interested in.

In the U.S., the Senate began debating the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill. The Wall Street Journal published a piece arguing immigration reform could improve Social Security’s finances as some 75 million baby boomers plan to retire and fewer young workers are available to keep the pension system afloat. The Atlantic, meanwhile warned that Republican opposition to reform could cost them the election in 2016.

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Xi Jinping in America’s backyard: From pivot to twirl

Ronaldo Schemidt AFPThe Economist, 6/6/2013

LIKE a veteran salsa dancer, Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, has responded to the United States’s “pivot” to Asia with his own twirl south of the Rio Grande. A month after a re-elected Barack Obama paid calls on Costa Rica and Mexico, Mr Xi followed in his footsteps, visiting San José and Mexico City from June 2nd to 6th.

He spent the previous weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, arriving in America’s mare nostrum four days after Joe Biden, America’s vice-president. As a welcome, the 280-strong Chinese entourage was greeted with the sound of “Ah Feel to Party”, a calypso classic, and China further enhanced the mood by promising $3 billion in (unspecified) soft loans to the eight Caribbean heads of government who trailed through to meet Mr Xi. Mr Biden, by contrast, got an earful of complaints that America no longer cared about the region.

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Leaders of Mexico, China promise broadened relations, move toward more balanced trade

Photo Diego MateosAssociated Press, 6/4/2013

The presidents of China and Mexico agreed Tuesday to broaden relations between their countries and expand trade ties, including opening the Chinese market to imports of Mexican tequila and pork. After meeting privately, China’s Xi Jinping and Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto said they are transforming the relationship into a “strategic partnership” and taking steps to move toward balancing their trade, which now is heavily in favor of China.

The leaders signed a dozen memorandums of understanding and cooperation agreements in areas including energy, mining, education and infrastructure. “Today, we are giving way to a new relationship, a new phase of the relationship,” Pena Nieto said in a joint statement. Xi said China wanted better relations with Mexico, which he called “a great friend and a great partner in the Latin American region.”

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Mexico hopes China leader’s visit can narrow trade gap

Photo by Ed Jones - AFPAFP, 6/3/2013

The leaders of Mexico and China will meet for the second time in two months this week, a sign of deepening cooperation, even as the Latin American nation seeks to close a huge trade deficit. Chinese President Xi Jinping will be treated to a lavish two-day state visit in Mexico that begins on Tuesday, with an event at the Campo Marte military field with President Enrique Pena Nieto and a speech to Congress. Pena Nieto already met with Xi when he visited China in April, four months after taking office in a trip that observers say shows his desire to cast aside old trade rivalries in favour of a closer partnership.

“There is a new dynamic in the relationship between the two countries,” Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos de Icaza told AFP. The arrival of two new presidents – Xi took office in March – “opens an opportunity to strengthen political dialogue and find ways to ensure that the flow of trade and investments between both nations is more balanced,” he said. The two sides are expected to sign 10 agreements in fields such as trade, investments, infrastructure, science and education.

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China drawn to Mexico’s opening economy

mexico-chinaAssociated Press, 6/2/2013

China has invested heavily in resource-rich Latin America in recent years, striking major trade deals with governments from Venezuela to Argentina. Now its president is reaching out to one of the few countries in the region where ties have been slow to develop: Mexico. President Xi Jinping’s three-day visit starting Tuesday comes as Mexico debates opening its highly regulated energy sector to more foreign investment.

China’s president has said he plans to address Mexico’s large trade deficit with the Asian power and discuss ways to increase Mexican exports. Analysts say that could mean oil, which Mexico has and China needs to fuel its expanding economy and the cars of its growing middle class. “Access to strategic raw materials is key to understanding the dynamic of relations with China,” said Hugo Beteta, director for Mexico and Central America of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Clearly there is an interest by China in Mexican oil.”

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In Latin America, U.S. Focus Shifts From Drug War to Economy

obamamex050313_009-4_3_rx1443_c1920x1440The New York Times, 5/4/2013

In February 2009, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared that international drug trafficking posed “a sustained, serious threat” to Americans. Two months later, President Obama, in his first visit as president to Mexico, made it clear that no issue dominated relations between the two countries more, saying drug cartels there were “sowing chaos in our communities.”

Last week, Mr. Obama returned to capitals in Latin America with a vastly different message. Relationships with countries racked by drug violence and organized crime should focus more on economic development and less on the endless battles against drug traffickers and organized crime capos that have left few clear victors. The countries, Mexico in particular, need to set their own course on security, with the United States playing more of a backing role.

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Neighbors in Arms: How US guns are turning Central America into one of the most dangerous places in the world

Photo by Flikr user brian.chForeign Policy, 5/3/2013

When President Barack Obama meets with various Central American leaders in Costa Rica this weekend, he will likely face criticism of U.S. domestic firearm laws. Like Mexico, where he met with President Enrique Peña Nieto on May 2, Central American countries have increasingly raised concerns about U.S. firearms trafficking. They have good reason to do so: more and more arms that originated in the United States are being used in violent crimes across the region. And given the recent death of background check legislation in the U.S. Senate, Obama may find it difficult to reassure his critics that the United States is effectively tackling the problem at home.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on U.S. firearms trafficking and an analysis of related U.S. prosecutions, thousands of U.S.-origin firearms (firearms that were either manufactured or imported into the United States) are finding their way to criminals in Central America in the last few years. The flow of U.S. weapons is heaviest to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — all among the top 10 most violent countries in the world.

According to a new Woodrow Wilson Center report focusing on Guatemala, ATF discovered that 2,687 (or 40 percent) of the 6,000 seized firearms it analyzed from just one Guatemalan military bunker in 2009 originated in the United States. In the past five years, there have also been at least 34 U.S. prosecutions related to American firearms trafficking to Guatemala involving a total of 604 U.S.-origin firearms.

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