Trade, security focus at "Three amigos" summit

Sun Aug 9, 2009 5:05pm EDT
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By Mica Rosenberg and Patricia Zengerle

GUADALAJARA, Mexico (Reuters) - Leaders of the United States, Mexico and Canada -- also known as "the three amigos" -- begin a summit on Sunday in Mexico to talk about simmering trade issues and the threat of drug gangs.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon are gathering in Guadalajara for dinner Sunday night followed by three-way talks on Monday.

At the top of their agenda is how to power their economies past a lingering downturn, keep trade flowing smoothly and grapple with Mexican gangs dominating the drug trade over the U.S. border and up into Canada.

Obama's national security adviser, Jim Jones, doubted the leaders would announce major agreements, predicting the annual summit "is going to be a step in the continuing dialogue from which agreements will undoubtedly come."

Obama is expected to get some heat from Calderon to resolve a cross-border trucking dispute.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican trucks are supposed to be allowed to cross into the United States, but U.S. trucking companies say Mexican trucks are unsafe. Mexico imposed tariffs of $2.4 billion in U.S. goods in March after Obama signed a bill canceling a program allowing them to operate beyond the U.S. border zone.

U.S. business groups have been pressing the White House to resolve the dispute, saying the ban threatens to eliminate thousands of U.S. jobs. The White House says it is doing so.

CARTEL VIOLENCE   Continued...

<p>President Barack Obama speaks at a rally for State Senator Creigh Deeds, who is running for Governor of Virginia, in McLean, Virginia, August 6, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>