Obama And Mexican President-Elect Chart New Path In Approach To Drug Trade And Immigration

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Obama meets Mexico President-elect Pena-Nieto in Washington, D.C.

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Tuesday where they discussed drug trafficking, trade, immigration and other issues shared by their two countries.

"What happens in Mexico has an impact on our society," Obama told Pena Nieto, who will be inaugurated Saturday, during their meeting, the BBC reported.

Pena Nieto emphasized that his primary goal is to reduce the violence in Mexico which has vastly increased in the past few years since the previous administration under President Felipe Calderon began cracking down on the drug cartels.

He added that creating more economic opportunities for people in Mexico would be the most effective way to fight the war on drugs, saying that without jobs and support form the state, “millions of my countrymen have no other option than to dedicate themselves sometimes to criminal activity," CNN reported.

Pena Nieto said he would like to increase economic ties with the U.S. and expand Mexico’s presence in the international market.

"We've lost presence and competitiveness on the international market. ... There's still space, an opportunity, to achieve greater integration as far as productivity, which will allow us to improve the competitive conditions for creating jobs across North America," he said, according to CNN.

On security issues, Pena Nieto said he would maintain close cooperation with the U.S. in fighting the drug cartels.

"We will keep the policies that I think work, including cooperation with the United States to effectively fight organized crime," he said, CNN reported.

Pena Nieto has previously criticized his predecessor’s approach to fighting the drug cartels, and has emphasized increasing public security, raising concerns in the U.S. that he may shift focus from reducing drug trafficking.

“[H]e's going to focus on reducing violence and not give as high a priority on drug interdiction and other kinds of goals that are related to the drug war in particular,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, in an interview with PBS.

Immigration was also another major issue brought up at the meeting.

Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans account for 70 percent of the 50 million people in the Latino community in the U.S. There are an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., many of whom have entered the country from Latin America through Mexico.

“But we have seen a tremendous shift in recent years, that it's really -- illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States is at its lowest level in decades,” Shifter told PBS. “It's really stabilized. And that has enormous implications.”

Shifter added that remittances from Mexican immigrants in the U.S. remained an integral part of the Mexican economy, and that a push for immigration reform in the U.S. would be welcomed by Mexico.

President Obama said he would make immigration reform part of his agenda in his second term, which Pena Nieto has supported, adding that his country would cooperate with such efforts.

"We want to contribute,” he said, the BBC reported. “We want to be part of this."

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