MEXICO CITY -- Downtown Toluca, Mexico, has been shut down. Signs reading “welcome” in Spanish, French and English hang from every lamppost, and security forces roam the streets. Everything is ready for the NAFTA 20th Anniversary summit, where U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will reunite in a trilateral meeting to discuss the past, present and future of their countries' collaboration.
Harper arrived Tuesday in Mexico City, and after a quick jaunt around town, met with Peña Nieto for a private talk. Both officials traveled to Toluca, an industrial town 50 miles (80 km) west of the capital, on Wednesday morning, where they will be joined by Obama at 1 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST).
After introductions in the central plaza of Toluca -- which was chosen by Peña Nieto as the location for the meeting since it was where Mexico’s current president began his political career -- Obama and Harper are scheduled for a private meeting at 4:20 p.m. (5:20 p.m. EST).
The most significant event will come at 5:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m. EST), with the three leaders in a private meeting. For the following two hours, Obama, Harper and Peña Nieto will discuss economic and political relations of the three North American countries.
One of the main topics discussed will be the free movement of people across both borders, particularly of frequent travelers and business people with investments in two or all three countries. Several programs are already in motion, but not all the governments recognize them yet.
The collaboration on education and student exchange programs is thought to also be a priority, as well as technology and innovation.
The press conference is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. local, immediately after the meeting, in the central square of Toluca.
Patricia covers Latin America for the International Business Times.
Before joining IBT in March 2013, she worked at BBC America in New York, La República in Lima...