Obama tells Mexico: We are "equal partners"

Amid attempts in the U.S. to pass immigration reform and build a stronger North American economy, President Obama on Friday sought to put the United States' relationship with Mexico on stronger footing, saying that the two nations are "equal partners."

"Just as Mexico is being transformed, so too are the ties between our two countries," he said before an enthusiastic crowd at Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. "As president, I've been guided by a basic proposition -- in this relationship there is no senior partner or junior partner. We are two equal partners--two sovereign nations that must work together in mutual interest and mutual respect, and if we do that, both Mexico and the United States will prosper."

Mr. Obama on Friday was on the second day of his three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, where the economy has been the biggest item on the agenda. Yesterday, he met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to concluding negotiations with other nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this year. The U.S. has the opportunity to help lift Mexico up on the international stage -- which, in turn, would help the U.S, given their closely linked economies.

Mr. Obama said that "Mexico that is taking its rightful place in the world," joining the ranks of the world's largest economies and standing up for democracy.

The president's remarks, however, weren't limited to economic issues. As the world, and the U.S. and Mexico specifically, become more connected, he stressed the need for stronger cultural tolerance.

"Despite the deep bonds and values we share... attitudes are sometimes trapped in old stereotypes," he said. "Some Americans only see the Mexico depicted in sensational headlines of violence and border crossings. And let's admit it, some Mexicans may think America disrespects Mexico, that we seek to impose ourselves on Mexican sovereignty, or, alternatively, wish to wall ourselves off. And in both countries, such distortions can breed myths and misunderstanding that only make it harder to make progress together."

The shared future of the U.S. and Mexico is one of the reasons he is pursuing immigration reform, Mr. Obama said. "We are a nation of laws, and like every nation we have the responsibility to ensure that our laws are upheld," he said. "But we also know that, as a nation of immigrants, the immigration system we have in the United States now doesn't reflect our values."

Mr. Obama spoke of the other responsibilities the U.S. must uphold as it works to improve its relationship with Mexico, such as reducing the demand for illegal drugs and putting pressure on gun traffickers.

"We understand that the root cause of much of the violence here--and so much suffering for many Mexicans-- is the demand for illegal drugs, including in the United States," he said. "Now, I do not believe that legalizing drugs is the answer; but, I do believe in a comprehensive approach--not just law enforcement, but education, prevention and treatment. And we're going to keep at it--because the lives of our children and the future of our nations depend on it."

The president also acknowledged the role of Mexican Americans in U.S. society -- including the role they played in recent elections.

"Without the strong support of Hispanics, including so many Mexican Americans, I would not be standing before you today as president of the United States," he said.