Reuters reported on Monday that President Barack Obama will travel on February 19 to Toluca, Mexico, where he will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto at a summit of North American leaders.  When Obama touches down on Mexican soil, Animal Politico notes, it will be the fifth time since he entered the White House in 2008 that the president has done so, making Mexico the country he has most frequently visited – eclipsing France, to which he has traveled on four occasions. 

The first two visits came in 2009, during the tenure of now-ex-president Felipe Calderón, with whom Obama discussed US-Mexico cooperation on the war against drugs and responses to the financial crisis in which the United States remained sunk.  Nearly three years later, in 2012, they met again to talk another financial crisis – the one over European debt – but last May, when newly elected Peña Nieto greeted Obama, there was much talk of turning the page in US-Mexico relations.  Peña Nieto had campaigned on a promise to scale back the military presence in hotbeds of cartel activity and aim less for high-profile kingpin arrests – which often triggered fights for control in the power vacuums it left – than his predecessor. 

That gelled well with Obama, who pushed for greater economic collaboration in a speech that May at Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology.  Since being reelected in 2012, Obama has said he would make Mexico – and a comprehensive immigration reform from which many of its citizens would benefit – a top priority.  Meanwhile, he and other American leaders have applauded a broad series of reforms won by Peña Nieto’s administration, chief among them one which will open Mexico’s energy industry to foreign exploitation and investment.  Reuters writes that the announcement of the latest trip from the White House comes one week after Obama called Peña Nieto to congratulate him on a series of reforms.