MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump wants to strengthen and improve ties with Mexico after “bumps” in the road, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday, following the leftist’s landslide victory this month.
Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law of Trump, was in the delegation led by Pompeo, which earlier met outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and the foreign minister Luis Videgaray.
The arrival of senior U.S. officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, so soon after the election may give the two neighbors and allies a chance to repair ties that have been increasingly strained since Trump’s 2016 election.
“President Trump cares deeply for the success of the relationship,” Pompeo said at the start of the 50-minute meeting, where he congratulated Lopez Obrador, who will take office on Dec. 1, and greeted him as “Senor President.”
“Our presence here today signals that to you,” he said, according to a pool report from journalists traveling with him. “You have four of the most senior leaders here just after you were elected.”
Trump has irked Mexico with demands that it pay for a border wall and comments that it does “nothing” to slow illegal immigration, while seeking to revamp the North American Free Trade Agreement to favor the United States.
“We know there have been bumps in the road between our two countries, but President Trump is determined to make the relationship between our peoples better and stronger,” Pompeo said.
Outside the house in the scruffy but hip Roma neighborhood of Mexico City where the meeting was held, Maria Garcia, 60, held up a placard that read “Where are the migrant children?”, among a handful of protesters.
After he met the delegation, Pena Nieto issued a statement calling for the quick reunification of immigrant children separated from their parents under Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy.
Mexico opposes a U.S. request to make people seeking asylum in the United States apply in Mexico instead, according to a source and a briefing note seen by Reuters.
Despite ideological differences, Trump was quick to congratulate Lopez Obrador, the first leftist president elected in Mexico in decades, on his landslide July 1 election win.
Lopez Obrador, who like Trump has nationalist and populist leanings, says he wants good relations with the United States, although some political analysts have said the two men could clash if the U.S. president makes comments Mexicans find insulting.
The Mexican president-elect will seek to press the United States to reduce migration by helping to create better living standards in Mexico and Central America, his team said.
“We’re going to go after the causes of immigration. If we solve the violence and poverty and bring jobs and development to Mexico and Central America we can considerably halt the flow,” Olga Sanchez, his pick for interior minister who will attend the meeting, told Reuters before the meeting.
Andres Rozental, a former Mexican deputy foreign minister, said he did not know of a precedent for such a senior U.S. delegation paying a visit to an incoming administration.
“What that is showing is a desire from both a U.S. and Mexican perspective to look at the relationship holistically,” Rozental said. “We’ve been pushing for that for a long time.”
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Diego Ore; Additional reporting by Dave Graham, Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Rosalba O’Brien and Susan Thomas