MEXICO CITY: President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday hailed the awarding of host duties for the 2026 World Cup to Mexico, the United States and Canada as recognition that North America is "deeply united."
Their joint bid to host football's main event was selected amid troubled times in relations between the three neighbors, who are quarreling over the future of a free trade agreement that has bound them since 1994.
"It is not just our peoples and our families, our companies and our businessmen and women, football itself knows that Canada, the US and Mexico are deeply united," Pena Nieto said in a video posted on Twitter.
US-Mexican relations have been strained since President Donald Trump won election in 2016 after a campaign laced with anti-Mexican barbs and promises to build a wall on the two countries' border and make Mexico pay for it.
Pena Nieto has twice cancelled plans to visit Washington after testy phone calls with Trump, and relations hit a new low last month when the US slapped steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from Mexico, Canada and the European Union.
The move cast new uncertainty on the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the US, Mexico and Canada have been renegotiating at the behest of Trump, who claims the deal has been "horrible" for the United States.
The Mexican president brushed the hostilities aside, congratulating all three countries on the "great news" after football governing body FIFA voted for the three countries' joint candidacy over that of Morocco at a meeting held in Moscow on the eve of this year's World Cup.
"FIFA's decision is an acknowledgement to the three countries," said Pena Nieto.
He underlined the fact that Mexico -- which hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cups -- will now become the first country to have hosted the tournament three times.
"Mexico is a great host. We have magnificent beaches, magical towns and remarkable archaeological sites. But, above all, Mexicans are a hospitable and warm people, who enjoy sharing their traditions, cuisine and love for life," he said.
Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also hailed the news, which the US president said was the result of "a great deal of hard work."