MEXICO CITY (CN) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Thursday that he declined to accept an invitation from President Joe Biden to attend an upcoming economic summit in San Francisco.
López Obrador will not attend the 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November because “we do not have relations with Peru,” he said during his daily morning press conference in Mexico City.
The 21 Pacific rim member economies of APEC account for 60% of global GDP, according to the summit’s website.
“We do not want to participate in that, with all due respect,” Mexico's president said.
Tensions grew between Mexico and Peru in the fallout of former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo’s ouster last December, when he attempted to dissolve the country’s congress, reorganize its judiciary and rule by decree.
López Obrador has previously called the current government under President Dina Boluarte an illegitimate administration installed by a coup, and said he considers Castillo to be Peru’s lawful president.
Thursday’s announcement marked the second time that López Obrador turned down an invitation to an international summit in the United States. He declined to attend the Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles in June 2022, citing the exclusion of the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the event.
International relations experts considered the decision an unfortunate one for López Obrador’s relationship with his neighbor to the north, according to former Mexican Ambassador to the United States Martha Bárcena Coqui, who had just discussed the matter with a group of colleagues.
“It’s unfortunate, not only because he is going to miss the APEC meeting, but also because of the fact that it’s the second time he’s going to skip an international summit hosted by the United States,” she said in a phone interview.
López Obrador will also miss a second opportunity to connect with a large population of Mexican citizens and people of Mexican descent. Hispanic Californians make up the largest racial group in the state population — nearly 40% — and 77% percent of those are of Mexican heritage, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
“It’s a regrettable decision from both of those points of view,” she said.
Bárcena and her colleagues were surprised to hear López Obrador say Mexico does not have diplomatic relations with Peru. As far as she and the rest of the international community know, the two countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from the other, but diplomatic relations have still been carried out by their chargé d’affaires.
The president appears to show a “lack understanding” of the situation between the two countries, Bárcena said.
He also appears to misunderstand the nature of the APEC summit, said Farid Kahhat, an international relations professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. The summit is a gathering of economies, not nation states.
“You don’t even have to be a state to be part of APEC,” he said. “Taiwan is in APEC, as is the People’s Republic of China, and China doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a state.”
Taiwan is listed as “Chinese Taipei” on the official website for APEC.
“López Obrador says things that he doesn’t know about and that he doesn’t verify beforehand,” Kahhat said. “The argument he put forward for not going to San Francisco is absolutely irrelevant, in addition to incorrect.”
After announcing his intention to skip APEC, López Obrador reiterated his own invitation for Biden to visit Mexico and take a tour of infrastructure projects, including a natural gas liquefaction plant under construction in Tamaulipas.
The joint project between Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission and the U.S. company New Fortress Energy will be the largest of such plants in Mexico, López Obrador said, and will export liquefied natural gas to Europe.
He also invited Biden to Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, to see the advances on the Interoceanic Corridor, as well as to the Yucatán Peninsula to see the Maya Train.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
However, it is unlikely that Biden will make such a trip with the 2024 presidential election right around the corner, Bárcena said.Follow @copycopeland
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