Mexican president says won’t meet Biden during US trip

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ruled out meeting Democratic candidate Joe Biden during his upcoming visit to Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump.

Lopez Obrador told reporters his visit was a working trip focused on launching USMCA — the US-Mexico-Canada free trade pact — and meeting presidential frontrunner Biden would be “inappropriate” in the circumstances.

“I am going to witness the beginning of the treaty that I believe will help the three countries a lot… For that reason I cannot speak, or it would not be correct, appropriate, to speak with candidates because this is a working visit,” the president told his daily news conference.

Lopez Obrador has previously voiced hope that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will also attend the meeting, with USMCA due to come into force on July 1.

“I’m going to meet with the president of the United States and, if he decides, the prime minister of Canada will also be there,” he said Tuesday.

The leftist leader will fly to Washington in the coming days, his first foreign visit since assuming office in December 2018.

Analysts and diplomats have criticized Lopez Obrador for traveling to Washington so close to the November presidential elections and believe the visit could be used by Trump to boost his campaign.

“I’m not going to do partisan politics, it’s a working meeting. And just as they say there are four or five months to go before the election, so I say to them that I am starting the treaty. This is the moment to strengthen our economic and commercial relationship with the United States and Canada,” he said.

The government hopes the treaty — known in Mexico as the T-MEC — will help lift the country out of the economic doldrums, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mexico’s central bank estimates GDP could fall by almost 9.0 percent this year, while the IMF has forecast a drop of 10.5 percent.

A US poll released last week showed Biden with a commanding lead over Trump ahead of the November presidential election.