MEXICO CITY, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Mexico City Friday on a mission to strengthen economic ties with the United States' southern neighbor.
Biden was welcomed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and other dignitaries including Mexican Treasury Secretary Luis Videgary and Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico's ambassador to the United States.
Biden's trip was billed as a high-level economic dialogue but he said in prepared remarks he hoped to deepen the overall bilateral relationship.
"But finally, finally, we have reached the point where we should have reached a long time ago, I think," he said.
"It began -- beginning with NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement] 20-some years -- 20 years ago, where we're looking at the relationship as partners in a wholesome -- way -- and I mean that in a literal sense -- all of the relationship: the cultural, political, economic, security, as mature partners do."
Biden said it would be impossible to achieve a secure and stable western hemisphere without a democratic and secure Mexico.
"It's not there yet, but it is possible to envision that. From Canada to the tip of Argentina, there is no reason why in the 21st century the hemisphere will not be the most potent economic engine in the world," said Biden.
Biden said the United States is committed to doubling the number of students in participating foreign exchange programs by 2020 to 100,000 and will continue to push for immigration reform to "bring 11 million undocumented men, women and children out of the shadows."
"There is no reason why our partnership, the U.S.-Mexico partnership, should not be among the strongest that we have," he said. "We are grounded in a common border, a common culture, common values, common dreams and common potential."