By Gary Martin
Updated 5:52 p.m., Monday, November 26, 2012

WASHINGTON — Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will meet Tuesday with United States leaders on a wide range of cross-border issues that include expanding trade between the two countries to stemming drug cartel violence that has strained relations.

Recent shooting incidents along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well the publicized attack on CIA agents by Mexican military members, have overshadowed economic goals that are shared by both countries, experts said.

But Peña Nieto is expected to use his visit with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders to begin recasting the tone of the bilateral relationship to one of economic cooperation, said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center.

“It's an opportunity for a new beginning,” Wood said.

Peña Nieto will meet with Obama at the White House, and on Capitol Hill with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

No public events are planned by the Mexican president-elect, who will officially take office on Saturday.

On the eve of Peña Nieto's visit, Obama announced a delegation of U.S. dignitaries to attend Peña Nieto's inauguration. The delegation will be led by Vice President Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

Three Texas lawmakers also will attend: Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

White House officials sought to underscore the close economic and cultural ties between the countries in advance of the meeting between Peña Nieto and Obama.

“The president looks forward to meeting President-elect Peña Nieto and hearing about his vision for leading Mexico over the next six years,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

In addition to shared commitment to improve economic competitiveness and regional development, Carney said the two leaders would “address our common security challenges.”

The meeting comes on the heels of violent incidents that have raised public ire in both countries. CIA agents in Mexico were ambushed and wounded in August by members of the Mexican federal police, an incident that is under investigation there. Last month, Guatemalan immigrants in South Texas were killed by shots fired out of a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter near McAllen. In September, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot across the Rio Grande and killed a man who was with family in a park in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

The outgoing administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón has called the disproportionate use of force by U.S. authorities intolerable.

Cuellar said he has talked with the Peña Nieto transition team about the shootings.

“All those topics have been brought up. They brought up the American incidents, and I brought up the shooting of the agents,” Cuellar said, who added that investigations in both countries are ongoing.

Despite the concerns, Peña Nieto campaigned on a platform to turn the discourse in the bilateral relationship away from the security challenges to one of economic opportunity.

He has promised an agenda that promotes economic opportunity for Mexico and its hemispheric partners, Wood said.

Border efficiency, coordination of regulatory systems and integration of customs services are being eyed by the incoming administration as points to seek common ground with the United States, said Christopher Wilson, an expert on U.S.-Mexico economic ties at the Wilson Center.

Peña Nieto also is expected to use the meetings to allay American fears that his election as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party will be a return to bureaucratic corruption and failed economic policies that led to its 2000 loss of the presidency for the first time in 71 years.

The message is “to show that this is a modern, forward-looking party,” Wood said.

Meanwhile, the tradition of elected presidents from the United States and Mexico meeting before taking office goes back several decades.

Four years ago, Calderón, a member of the National Action Party, met President-elect Obama on the eve of his inauguration. Calderón was the only foreign leader to meet Obama before his inauguration.

The Mexican president-elect will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper later this week.

Mexico's president-elect to meet with Obama, other U.S. leaders - San Antonio Express-News