US President Joe Biden vowed Monday to bolster relations with Mexico, making not-so-oblique criticisms of his predecessor’s diplomatic and immigration legacies. 

In brief remarks ahead of his virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Biden acknowledged the “long and complicated history” between the North American neighbors but vowed to treat Mexico as an “equal” rather than “somebody who is south of our border.”

“We have seen over and over again the power and the purpose when we cooperate. And we’re safer when we work together, whether it’s addressing the challenges of our shared border or getting this pandemic under control,” he said.

The statements are a far cry from the rhetoric regularly used by former US President Donald Trump, who often spoke in derisive terms about Mexico and Latin America amid his hardline immigration crackdown, notably pledging to force Mexico to pay for the construction of a US-Mexico border wall. Trump’s insistence was rebuffed by Mexican leaders.

Lopez Obrador thanked Biden for starting their discussion with statements acknowledging Mexico’s importance to the US, adding “I know our relations in the future will be even better.”

“I believe our countries will allow us to develop jointly in these dire times. Integration will strengthen both our countries as we are faced with this inevitable expansion of other regions. Our relations are strategic,” said the Mexican president.

“I would like to also thank you after the call that we have had for wanting to base our relations on respect and equality. It is important for Mexico, and we must keep on cooperating for further development based on independence and autonomy, potentializing what our peoples mean to us,” he added.

A joint declaration released by the White House following their meeting said the US and Mexico vowed to cooperate closely on immigration, the COVID-19 response and efforts to combat climate change.

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