A disappointing 'Three Amigos' summit

US President Barack Obama, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a summit in Mexico on 21 February, 2014 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Critics say the "Three Amigos" summit produced little of substance

To call President Barack Obama's visit to Mexico this week "short" would be an understatement.

Mr Obama spent a little over eight hours in Toluca, Mexico, as part of the North American leaders summit on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. He was joined by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

While the "Three Amigos" summit promised to give an opportunity to talk about unresolved issues between the countries such as immigration, trade and the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, those topics were left almost completely untouched. Instead, the leaders made headway on agreements that would ease travel between the three countries and better protect the monarch butterfly.

Many blamed Mr Obama for the sluggish progress.

"His cameo appearance at this summit sends a clear message that when it comes to North America, Canada and Mexico are dancers without a dance partner," said Fen Hampson, director of global security for Canada's Centre for International Governance Innovation.

"If this year's North American Leaders Summit was a three-man buddy flick, the plot would revolve around the guy who failed to bring the beer and sandwiches on the big camping trip. And that guy would be Obama, who is carting the equivalent of an empty cooler," writes James Gibney for Bloomberg View.

Gibney blames Obama for not providing enough political support to further integrate North American trade. Ignore the "blather", he writes, instead of progress. Mr Obama showed up offering nothing but excuses.

Want a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline that could help to knit together the hemisphere's energy market? "Sorry, Steve, that's still under review." Immigration reform to resolve the status of 11 million Hispanics left in limbo? "Lo siento, Enrique - I can't get those bad Republicans to go along."

The editors of the Houston Chronicle urge President Obama to focus on the big picture: energy.

"The next steps for NAFTA must capitalize on the oil and gas boom," they write. "Our three nations are already interconnected with a maze of petroleum imports and refined exports. Streamlining this process and removing trade barriers will help drive up production and ensure a unified, stable source of energy."

Ronald Brownstein of the National Journal argues that the relationship between the US and Mexico is too important for Mr Obama to neglect, despite opposition in Congress. "Both the congressional stalemate over immigration reform and the rapidly hardening impasse over trade policy are grounded in exaggerated concerns about this country's interaction with its neighbor to the south."

At the end of the movie The Three Amigos, Lucky Day (played by Steve Martin) gives a speech motivating the villagers of Santa Poco to battle the infamous villain El Guapo:

In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo.

Mr Obama's El Guapo, it seems, has been and will continue to be Capitol Hill.

(By Kierran Petersen)