Joe Biden in Mexico, Meeting with President

By ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON
Associated Press
MEXICO CITY
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said during a visit to Mexico on Friday that he wants to deepen relations between the neighboring countries beyond drugs, security and immigration.

Launching the High Level Economic Dialogue to boost trade and investment ties, Biden urged the two countries to develop a stronger economic partnership that can move "more people, goods and information across our border."

"We have a billion dollars a day in trade. Is there any businessman or woman here who can't rationally picture in 10 years that being $2 billion?" Biden asked, while speaking at the Foreign Ministry. "We cannot settle for business as usual."

Biden was meeting Friday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has been dealing with massive flooding in the southern state of Guerrero and street protests by teachers opposed to his education reforms.

Before meeting with Pena Nieto, Biden said the U.S. could provide assistance for storm recovery if Mexico wanted it. He said he was traveling next to see the flooding in Colorado.

The vice president also characterized Mexico's reforms as "historic changes," saying they would help the country "establish a new role in the 21st century." In educational cooperation, Biden said the two countries have great opportunities for increased academic and student exchanges and joint research.

Referring to the recent marches by protesting teachers that have choked Mexico City streets, Biden quipped that he thought the masses had assembled to welcome him.

"I was disappointed when I found out that the 15,000 out there weren't hollering `Biden, Biden,'" he said.

Biden spoke after meeting with Mexico's secretaries of finance, foreign affairs, tourism, economy and education. He is traveling with the U.S. secretaries of commerce, homeland security and transportation and the U.S. trade representative.

President Barack Obama announced the bilateral economic dialogue in a visit to Mexico in May. According to the White House, the annual cabinet-level meetings are designed to promote mutual growth, job creation and economic competitiveness.

"I have personally at the request of the president focused on the Middle East, Syria and events in that region. But the president made clear to me, and as they say he was pushing on an open door, that no matter what occupies us immediately, it is important for us to be here," Biden said. "President Obama is deeply interested in the maturation of our relationship at every level."

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