The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

February 19, 2014

Obama's N. American agenda hits congressional drag

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama heads into a summit with Mexican and Canadian leaders eager to engage on issues of trade and other neighbor-to-neighbor interests even as Congress is placing a drag on some of his top cross-border agenda items.

The president will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Wednesday in Toluca, Mexico, for the North American Leaders' Summit with a full agenda, covering commerce among the three North American Free Trade Agreement partners, immigration, energy and security.

The talks will highlight how increasingly interrelated the three economies are 20 years since NAFTA took effect. But they will also illustrate the limits of Obama's power, his hands tied on immigration by congressional Republicans and on trade by his fellow Democrats.

The summit also unfolds against other tensions, including revelations that the National Security Agency spied on Pena Nieto before he was elected and gained access to former Mexican President Felipe Calderon's email system when he was in office.

To the North, Canadian leaders have voiced frustration at the amount of time the Obama administration has taken to decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada 1,179 miles to Nebraska, where existing pipelines would then carry the crude to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

The NSA and pipeline issues could surface in one-on-one talks that Obama plans to have with Pena Nieto and Harper on the summit's sidelines but are not expected to be a factor in the broader, joint discussions among the three leaders.

Obama met Pena Nieto last year when he traveled to Mexico. Wednesday's visit is scheduled to last less than nine hours.

Keeping with the trade focus of the trip, the White House said that while en route to Mexico, Obama will sign an executive order that would speed up paperwork required for international transactions. The order would streamline the process for approving import or export cargo by permitting companies to submit their documentation to the federal government electronically.

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