(Reuters) – The Biden government on Monday downplayed the prospect of exchanging coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying it was initially focused on protecting its people from a pandemic that killed more than 500,000 Americans.
The remarks by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki came hours before Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is due to urge U.S. President Joe Biden to share part of his COVID-19 vaccine supply.
“The government’s focus is on making sure every American is vaccinated. And as soon as we have achieved this goal, we will be happy to discuss further steps, ”said Psaki at a press conference in the White House.
The two heads of state and government will hold a virtual meeting later Monday, which is likely to include immigration and trade.
Biden has predicted that by the end of July the United States will have enough supplies to vaccinate all Americans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. authorities have given 76.9 million doses to date, which is enough for 23% of the population to receive the two recommended doses for full protection among the vaccines used to date .
According to Reuters https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps, Mexico has vaccinated around 2.5 million doses so far, which is enough for about 1% of the population. Officials were frustrated with supply shortages and expressed concerns that wealthy countries were hoarding vaccines.
According to Reuters reporting, Mexico would try to repay Washington once the drug companies have delivered their orders.
Mexican magazine Proceso said Lopez Obrador asked Biden for help with vaccines in January.
“We would like to receive a response to a request that we have already made … about the vaccines,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular press conference on Monday. “Provided he feels that the matter should be raised. We have to be respectful. “
IMMIGRATION AND ENERGY
Immigration, security, climate change and the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) are also likely to be included in the talks, said Lopez Obrador, a left-wing nationalist.
Aware of pressure to curb illegal immigration, Lopez Obrador said on Saturday that he wanted Biden to help secure U.S. work permits for Mexicans and Central Americans. The United States needed another 600,000 to 800,000 workers.
On Monday, Lopez Obrador said he wanted to broker an agreement that covers all types of workers, including “professionals”.
The two leaders could also discuss Lopez Obrador’s efforts to strengthen a state-owned electricity company, the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE).
The Mexican president has formulated the legislation as a matter of national sovereignty, arguing that previous governments distorted the electricity market in favor of private operators.
Corporate groups have condemned the bill on the grounds that it could violate the USMCA and put Mexico’s renewable energy targets at risk by penalizing wind and solar generators over the CFE, a heavy user of fossil fuels.
(Reporting by Dave Graham, Steve Holland, and Alexandra Alper; additional reporting by Nandita Bose and David Alire Garcia; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Giles Elgood and Aurora Ellis)