Mr Lopez Obrador said a trade agreement had proven to be a valuable instrument but that there was continuous growth in its Pacific ports with goods from Asia, signalling the countries remained dependent on Asian industrial production.
“Couldn’t we produce in America what we consume? Of course, it is a matter of definition and joint planning of our future development,” he said during a meeting with Mr Biden.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic battered supply chains, policymakers have stepped up calls for firms to relocate business from Asia to beef up the economies covered by the United States-Mexico-Canada regional trade agreement.
The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to use “innovative approaches” to reduce irregular migration, after the Biden administration introduced a policy to expel back to Mexico migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who cross the border illegally.
Mexico has urged the United States to commit funds to Central America and southern Mexico to boost development and stem migration from one of the poorest regions in the hemisphere, and to make it easier for migrants to get US jobs.
The leaders discussed more cooperation to prosecute drug traffickers and disrupt supplies of chemicals used to make fentanyl, the White House said, with the synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of US deaths.
Two Mexican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters earlier on Monday the plan would in essence involve Mexico reducing the fentanyl smuggled across the border in exchange for the United States bringing down the number of guns being trafficked into Mexico.
Mexico last week arrested a prominent cartel leader, Ovidio Guzman, who is wanted in the United States. Weaponry used by Guzman’s gang had come into the country from US border states, one of the Mexican officials said.
Despite the talk of strengthening ties, tensions remain. Mr Lopez Obrador has alarmed the United States with a plan to prohibit imports of genetically modified corn, though Mexico agreed to delay the ban until 2025. The three trading partners have also been at loggerheads over rules of origin on cars.
“Trade tensions over automobiles, customs rules, genetically modified corn and Mexico’s energy policies are already high and could sharpen,” said Jake Colvin, president of the Washington-based National Foreign Trade Council.
“To create a North American corridor to outcompete China, the United States, Canada and Mexico need to be on the same economic page.”
Mr Lopez Obrador, a combative leftist, says his energy policy is a matter of national sovereignty, arguing that past governments skewed the market to favour private interests.
The United States and Canada say their firms have been disadvantaged by Mr Lopez Obrador’s campaign to give control of the market to his cash-strapped state energy companies, and the row has taken the shine off the outlook for investment.
Mr Trudeau told Reuters on Friday he would make the case that resolving the energy dispute would help bring more foreign capital to Mexico, and was confident of making progress.
As part of that drive, Mr Lopez Obrador – who in June snubbed Mr Biden’s invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in protest at his exclusion of the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – wants to discuss his plan to boost solar power in northern Mexico and secure US financial support for it.
Christopher Landau, US ambassador to Mexico under former president Donald Trump, said domestic politics meant finding compromises on energy, as well as migration, would be difficult.
“There’s no obvious deal that satisfies all of their domestic interests,” he said. “But I think it’s in all their domestic interest to say they get along.”