For the first time ever - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday met with U.S. President Donald Trump.
But with the coronavirus surging in both of their countries - the leaders did not shake hands outside of the White House. They didn’t wear face masks either.
It’s a potentially tricky encounter… In coming to Washington, Mexico’s leftist president has brushed off criticism at home because of disputes with the U.S. over energy sector contracts, policies on illegal immigration and Trump’s incendiary remarks about Mexicans.
(TRUMP FROM 2015) "“Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists..."
But on Wednesday, Trump gave praise to Mexicans living in the U.S.:
“The U.S. is home to 36 million incredible Mexican-American citizens. Mexican-Americans uplift our communities and they strengthen our churches and enrich every feature of national life.”
The leaders' meeting was billed as a celebration of a new North American Trade Agreement - the USMCA - starting this month.
But the two-day gathering was scaled back to a single day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to join, amid new U.S. threats of tariffs on Canadian goods and having flagged concerns over the coronavirus.
Trump, however, said he would celebrate with Canada down the road:
TRUMP: “Canada - We want to thank everybody, We’ll have a separate day with Canada. They’re coming down at the appropriate time."
MCENANY: “Canada was unable to travel because of restrictions in their country with regard to COVID."
According to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump and Obrador did not discuss how Mexico would pay for the border wall - once a central campaign promise for Trump.
REPORTER: "Did the president ask the president of Mexico if he would pay for the wall and what happened to that threat?
MCENANY: "So that discussion did not come up when I was in the room."
A source told Reuters the talks aimed to prioritize business.
Two people familiar with preparations for the meeting said the private sector was eager for Trump to raise concerns about Lopez Obrador's attempts to renegotiate billions of dollars worth of contracts in energy infrastructure.