While U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were meeting on Tuesday for a series of talks on migration, trade and climate change at the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City, it became obvious that the "three amigos summit" was not without tension.
First, a supposedly brief exchange of pleasantries between Biden and Lopez Obrador on Monday turned into a contentious debate over the history of U.S. support for Latin America.
Lopez Obrador told Biden that the United States had done little to support development in Latin America since John F. Kennedy's "Alliance for Progress" spending in the early 1960s.
"This has been the only important thing, really, that has been done in terms of cooperation for development in our continent in more than half a century," said Lopez Obrador.
He challenged Biden to improve life across the region, telling him that "you hold the key in your hand".
"This is the moment for us to determine to do away with this abandonment, this disdain and this forgetfulness for Latin America and the Caribbean," Lopez Obrador told Biden.
Biden didn't agree, replying that the U.S. government has spent "tens of billions of dollars in the hemisphere" in the last 15 years, and that he had secured agreements from G7 countries to support infrastructure projects in the region.
However, Biden acknowledged that U.S. response is not limited to the North American continent. "Unfortunately, our response just doesn't end in the Western Hemisphere: It's in central Europe. It's in Asia. It's in the Middle East. It's in Africa," he said. "I wish we could just have one focus."
Biden and Lopez Obrador haven't been on good terms for the past two years. Lopez Obrador openly expressed his admiration for Biden's 2020 presidential opponent Donald Trump and last year he skipped a Los Angeles summit of the Americas because Biden didn't invite the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Both the U.S. and Canada have accused Lopez Obrador of violating a free-trade pact by favoring Mexico's state-owned utility over those built by foreign and private companies.
Both Trudeau and Lopez Obrador are concerned about Biden's efforts to boost U.S. domestic manufacturing.
Biden's proposed spending plan stipulated that it would offer American consumers a $7,500 tax credit if they buy electric vehicles through 2026. After 2026, only purchases of electric vehicles made in the U.S. would qualify for the credit. The base credit would go up by $4,500 for a vehicle made at a U.S. plant that operates under a union-negotiated agreement.
Trudeau said last November that the credit would pose problems for vehicle production in Canada.
The White House released a statement outlining key targets of the summit, including trilateral cooperation in securing semiconductor and critical mineral supply chain, clean energy, a safe pathway for immigration, and curbing drug-trafficking and human-trafficking.