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U.S. to focus on economy with Mexico

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 8:21 p.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is seeking to refocus economic relations between the United States and Mexico, even as fresh questions about security cooperation threaten to cast a shadow over the president's visit to the southern neighbor.

Obama will use his three-day trip, which begins on Thursday and includes a stop in Costa Rica, to highlight the immigration overhaul moving through Capitol Hill, both for an audience in Latin America and for those back home in the states.

The president is scheduled to arrive Thursday afternoon in Mexico City for meetings with President Enrique Pena Nieto and members of Mexico's business community.

Since taking office in December, Pena Nieto has moved to end the widespread access it gave U.S. security agencies helping fight drug trafficking and organized crime. The changes mark a dramatic shift from the policies of Pena Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who was lauded by the United States for boosting cooperation between the two countries as he led an aggressive attack on Mexico's drug cartels.

The White House has tried to downplay a potential rift, with officials emphasizing Mexico has kept the United States informed about the changes. Obama on Tuesday said he would wait to hear directly from his Mexican counterpart before assessing the changes.

Despite the intense focus on security issues, Obama advisers say the president will try to show that the ties between the two countries are broader than the drug wars that defined the relationship in recent years.

“Security has been so front-and-center in the public discussion of the U.S.-Mexico relationship that lost in that is the enormous commercial relationship between the two countries,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.

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