Obama Pressed By Neighbors On Sensitive Issues

President Barack Obama, left, gives a thumbs up as he poses for photos with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, center, and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The leaders met in part to highlight the economic cooperation that has grown since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) joined the U.S., Canada and Mexico 20 years ago.  (AP Photo/Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

President Barack Obama, left, gives a thumbs up as he poses for photos with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, center, and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The leaders met in part to highlight the economic cooperation that has grown since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) joined the U.S., Canada and Mexico 20 years ago. (AP Photo/Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

TOLUCA, Mexico (AP) -- Pressed by North American allies on an array of politically fraught issues, President Barack Obama on Wednesday vowed to press ahead with stalled efforts to expand trade agreements for the Americas into Asia and overhaul fractured U.S. immigration laws. But Obama made no promises to frustrated Canadian leaders about his long-anticipated decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Closing a day of talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, Obama said the North American partners must maintain their "competitive advantage" on trade, in part by expanding into the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region. And he downplayed opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement from members of his own Democratic Party on Capitol Hill.

"We'll get this passed if it's a good agreement," Obama declared during a joint news conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The North America Leaders' Summit - often referred to as the "Three Amigos" meeting - coincided with the 20th year of the North American Free Trade Agreement among the three countries, a deal that has vastly expanded cross-border commerce in the region but which remains a contentious issue in the United States over its impact on jobs and on environmental protections.

Trade experts say the agreement is due for an upgrade to take into account the current globalized environment and to address issues not touched in the original pact. But rather than reopen NAFTA, the three countries are instead relying on negotiations underway to complete the TPP, which is a trade bloc of 12 countries in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific.

BY JIM KUHNHENN -Feb 19, 9:09 PM ESTAP

 
 

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