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Kushner, Pompeo, Nielsen Head South to Meet with Mexico's Incoming Leftist Populist Leader

President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City on July 12, 2018. (Agencia EL UNIVERSAL/Carlos Mejía/RCC/GDA via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — A high-level U.S. delegation headed to Mexico City today to meet with the current and incoming presidents as Mexico faces very different leadership moving forward.

As Mexico has a lengthy transition period between one-term presidents, President-electAndrés Manuel López Obrador won’t be sworn in until Dec. 1. But the leftist populist has begun laying out his agenda, including rolling back President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education reform that was opposed by organized labor. López Obrador is also planning on canceling a $1.2 billion order to Lockheed-Martin for eight combat helicopters, and says he’ll be creating Mexico’s own border patrol.

After a phone call with President Trump earlier this month, López Obrador tweeted, “I proposed exploring a comprehensive agreement on development projects which will create jobs in Mexico, and with it, reduce migration and improve security.”

The U.S. delegation to Mexico includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

A senior State Department official said the list of travelers “shows that this is a whole-of-government approach and underscores the importance of our relationship with Mexico.”

“This visit is to build and to move forward on that call and to begin previewing and reviewing the broad agenda we have with Mexico across the different areas such as migration, the commercial relationship,” the official told reporters on a call Thursday. “And so I expect that on this first visit tomorrow we will have a chance to meet the president-elect and members of his team and ensure they are aware of the depth and breadth of our relationship.”

The official couldn’t answer whether Pompeo would invite López Obrador to Washington to meet with Trump.

Asked if more difficult NAFTA negotiations are expected under López Obrador, the official replied, “The United States is committed to a comprehensive NAFTA negotiation process that will modernize the agreement, establish 21st century standards, and advance fair and reciprocal trade. Our negotiators are working constantly with Canada and Mexico to make progress. There is an established channel that our three governors work through — our three governments work through regularly, and I’m not going to go into the details of ongoing negotiations at this time.”

The official said that “our two governments work to address the issue of narcotics trafficking through Mexico and across our southern border on a regular basis.”

“Transnational criminal organizations are — there are many that’re responsible for many different aspects of the drug trafficking problem. We look forward to working and continuing our work with the Mexican Government to address any and all transnational criminal organizations that are responsible for the heroin entering our country and creating the opioid crisis here.”

The official characterized Trump and López Obrador’s phone chat as “very positive and constructive.”