North American leaders to cooperate on semiconductors

The White House has announced a series of pledges made with Mexico and Canada ahead of the “Three Amigos” summit, and cooperation on bolstering the supply of semiconductors, a market currently dominated by Asia, topped the list.

The announcement on Tuesday came hours before US President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were to meet for the 10th North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City. It also included a new agreement on addressing climate change, an updated strategy for dealing with drug smuggling and modest new measures aimed at stemming the region’s worsening migrant crisis.

Hours before Tuesday’s summit, Biden met one-on-one with Trudeau. On Monday, Biden and Lopez Obrador held talks, in which they discussed strengthening economic ties, fighting the illegal drug trade and reducing migration, the White House said.

“This is a relationship which is a fraternal relationship of friendship between our two peoples,” Lopez Obrador said ahead of the meeting on Monday, striking a warm tone despite the left-wing leader’s generally cool approach to Mexico’s northern neighbours since taking office in 2018.

After hailing Biden as a “humanistic president, a visionary president”, Lopez Obrador called on him to “turn away from this abandonment, this disdain and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean”. He added that Biden holds the key to greater “economic, social integration” and a wider pivot away from a regional reliance on Asian manufacturing.

Biden, meanwhile, said the duo would address “strengthening our supply chains” while stressing the need to combat fentanyl smuggling, which has fuelled an addiction crisis in the US, and an increase in migrants and asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico boder. Both are politically fraught issues in the US.

In turn, the US leader also pointed to the billions of dollars that Washington spends in foreign aid around the world, saying that “unfortunately, our responsibility just doesn’t end in the Western Hemisphere.”

In joint statements before their bilateral meeting, Trudeau and Biden also said the North American leaders will also focus on efforts to stabilise crisis-hit Haiti during the meeting.

“As we talk about issues, whether it’s Haiti, whether it’s some of the challenges in South America, whether we talk about critical minerals and energy, and how we’re going to move forward to create those efficient and resilient supply chains that we need, there’s a lot that we’re going to be able to do together,” Trudeau said.

Pledges on semiconductors, drug smuggling, migration

Among the early joint pledges announced by the White House on Tuesday was an agreement to hold a “first-ever trilateral semiconductor forum”, aimed at strengthening investment in the semiconductor supply chain.

Semiconductors are used in nearly all forms of modern technology and computing. The strategically significant industry has emerged as a top economic and security priority for all three countries due to supply-chain shortages in recent years that have stoked concerns of an over-reliance on Asia.

The three countries also pledged to adopt an “updated strategic framework” to address threats posed by illegal drug trafficking, including, among other measures, “increased information sharing” on the chemicals used to make fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.

On migration, the trio announced only modest pledges aimed at building on previous development agreements and increasing the availability of information for migrants and asylum seekers.

Those agreements were made after Lopez Obrador signalled on Monday that he was open to considering accepting more migrants and asylum seekers from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela who are expelled by the US. It now takes in 30,000 a month under a previous agreement with the Biden administration. US officials later said no increase had been agreed to.

Human rights groups have criticised the US policy for expelling asylum seekers who attempt to cross the border without offering them the opportunity to seek protection and instead sending them to an unfamiliar country. In return, under the Biden administration policy, 30,000 people per month from those four nations are eligible to work legally in the US for two years, granted they have sponsorship, pass background checks and take an airline flight to the country.

On climate change, the trio committed to reducing methane emissions from solid waste and wastewater by at least 15 percent from 2020 levels by 2030, the White House said.

The North American Leaders Summit is the second to be held since Biden took office in 2021 and resumed the gatherings, which were discontinued for four years under former President Donald Trump.

After the 2021 meeting in Washington, DC, the leaders hailed their reinvigorated partnership.

Still, relations have continued to chafe in some areas, notably over Mexico’s decision to give control of the country’s energy market to cash-strapped state energy companies, which Ottawa and Washington say undermines the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal. Mexico and Canada have also voiced concerns over Biden administration policies that encourage the use of domestic manufacturers for public infrastructure projects.

Biden is the first US president to travel to Mexico since former President Barack Obama made the trip in 2014.

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