Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Mexico City Friday to meet president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who arrives at a point when the two countries' relations are deeply strained.
Pompeo arrived with a team of high-ranking officials including President Donald Trump's son-in-law, senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
"This delegation is noteworthy and a testament to the importance the administration and the United States place on the bilateral relationship," a senior US State Department official said Thursday in a background briefing on the trip.
"This is an important trip scheduled at a key moment in our bilateral relationship."
The officials will also meet with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who hands power to Lopez Obrador on December 1, and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.
All issues in the neighboring countries' relationship will be on the table, including trade, migration, security and the border, the State Department official said.
US-Mexican relations have been strained since Trump won election in 2016 after a campaign laced with anti-Mexican insults, attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and promises to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.
US tariffs on Mexican steel and aluminum, Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy on undocumented immigrants, separation of migrant families and two abruptly canceled visits to Washington by President Pena Nieto have only added to the tension.
Lopez Obrador, widely known as "AMLO," had vowed during the campaign to "put (Trump) in his place."
But the two men appear to have hit it off in a phone call the day after Mexico's July 1 election, which Lopez Obrador won in a landslide, with more than 53 percent of the vote -- more than 30 points clear of his nearest rival.
Lopez Obrador said he had offered to help reduce US-bound migration -- an issue close to Trump's heart -- while the US president called it a "great talk."
Some commentators have drawn parallels between the two leaders: both are free-trade skeptics with populist tendencies who mobilized a disgruntled base with anti-establishment campaigns.
Trump has even reportedly taken to calling Lopez Obrador "Juan Trump" in private.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L), and US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, disembark from their plane in Mexico City, where Pompeo will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador