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Obama Meets With Mexican President

President-elect Barack Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon today, a meeting that furthered the tradition of incoming U.S. presidents sitting down before their inauguration with their soon-to-be counterparts to the south.

Mr. Obama vowed to strengthen the relationship between the two countries, saying he would work "to build on the commercial ties, the security ties and the cultural ties that exist between the United States and Mexico."

"My message today is that my administration is going to be ready on day one to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico," he said.

The pair talked about a wide range of issues, Mr. Obama said, including border security, NAFTA, and "how we can have a comprehensive and thoughtful [immigration] strategy that ultimately strengthens both countries."

Mr. Obama and Calderon shared an hour-and-a-half-long lunch of tortilla soup at the Mexican Cultural Institute. The president-elect praised Calderon for his handling of the Mexican economy and drug trafficking issues.

"The friendship between the U.S. and Mexico has been strong," Mr. Obama said. "I believe it can be even stronger."

Also present in the meeting with Mr. Obama were Chief of Staff Designee Rahm Emanuel, National Security Advisor Designee General Jim Jones (Ret.) and White House National Economic Council Director-Designee Lawrence Summers.

"President-elect Obama was very pleased to meet today with Mexico's President Calderón, and he hopes this early meeting helps emphasize the high importance he places on a strong and deep relationship with Mexico," incoming White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

"On security, President-elect Obama underscored his interest in finding ways to work together to reduce drug-related violence," Gibbs continued. "He applauded the steps that President Calderón has taken to improve security in Mexico and expressed his on-going support for the valuable work being done under the Mérida Initiative. President-elect Obama believes the cooperation under the Mérida Initiative can be a building block for a deeper relationship. President-elect Obama expressed support for efforts in the border states in both the United States and Mexico to eradicate drug-related violence and stop the flow of guns and cash. He told President Calderón that he intends to ask the Secretary of Homeland Security to lead an effort to increase information sharing to strengthen those efforts. He pledged to take more effective action from the United States to stem the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico."

"On trade and the economy, President-elect Obama said that with both countries facing very difficult economic times, it's important to work together to maintain a constructive and comprehensive dialogue," Gibbs added. "He expressed his continued commitment to upgrading NAFTA to strengthen labor and environmental provisions to reflect the values that are widely shared in both of our countries, and proposed the creation of a consultative group to work on a host of issues important to the United States and Mexico, including NAFTA, energy and infrastructure. President-elect Obama noted that his economic recovery plan includes substantial investments for port of entry modernization and improvements on the Mexican border to facilitate legal trade and commerce. President-elect Obama told President Calderón that he is impressed by the commitment Mexico made at the Poznan conference and said he hoped our two countries could soon begin conversations about mutually beneficial opportunities in low carbon energy development and carbon abatement opportunities."

"President-elect Obama underscored his commitment to working with Congress to fix the broken U.S. immigration system and fostering safe, legal and orderly migration," Gibbs said. "He expressed his strongly held view that immigrants should be treated with dignity and that the immigration debate should not be a vehicle for vilifying any group, and that our two countries need to work more effectively to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the United States."

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