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Biden, Lopez Obrador talk immigration, COVID-19 at 1st bilateral meeting

President Joe Biden participates in a virtual bilateral meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI
President Joe Biden participates in a virtual bilateral meeting with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden held a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday as the two discussed immigration and the COVID-19.

Biden and Lopez Obrador met via video conference as Biden declared that the importance of the United States' relationship with Mexico is vital to a North American partnership and "paramount to all the elements" of his administration's priorities.

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"There's a long and complicated history between our nations and we haven't always been perfect neighbors with one another, but we have seen over and over again the power and the purpose when we cooperate," said Biden. "We're safer when we work together, whether it's addressing the challenges of our shared border or getting this pandemic under control."

Shortly after taking office in January, Biden spoke with Lopez Obrador about how the two countries could slow migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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"The president outlined his plan to reduce migration by addressing its root causes, increasing resettlement capacity and lawful alternative immigration pathways, improving processing at the border to adjudicate requests for asylum, and reversing the previous administration's draconian immigration policies," the White House said on Jan. 23.

On Monday the White House said the two leaders agreed to "collaborate on a joint effort to address the root cause of regional migration, to improve migration management and to develop legal pathways for migration."

Biden told reporters the two would discuss sending COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico and the White House said they agreed to "deepen cooperation on pandemic response, including by enhancing public health capabilities, information sharing and the development of border policies."

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The two also expanded on their January conversation by reaffirming their commitment to development in the "Northern Triangle" of Central America.

Monday's was Biden's second official bilateral meeting with a foreign leader. His first, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, occurred last week.

Lopez Obrador, who was elected in 2018 and often voiced a favorable opinion of former President Donald Trump, was among the few world leaders -- with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro -- who didn't immediately acknowledge Biden's electoral victory last November.

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Lopez Obrador visited the White House last summer for a signing ceremony for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade.

Prior to Monday's meeting, Lopez Obrador thanked Biden for expressing the desire to base their relations on "respect and equality."

"It is important for Mexico and we must keep cooperating for further development based on independence and autonomy, potentializing what our peoples mean to us," he said.

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