MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico's president on Wednesday cheered a U.S decision to open their shared border in November after more than 18 months of pandemic restrictions, though millions of Mexicans inoculated with Chinese and Russian vaccines face being shut out.
The world's busiest land border, where nearly a million people crossed each day before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, has been closed to non-essential travel since March 2020.
"The opening of the northern border has been achieved, we are going to have normality in our northern border," Lopez Obrador said in his daily morning press conference.
The precise date for the reopening was still being worked out between the countries.
With the United States planning to permit entry only to visitors inoculated with vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged WHO to approve all other COVID-19 vaccines in public use.
The closure of the 1,954-mile (3,144-km) border dealt a blow to businesses on both side of the frontier. In Texas border counties alone, the loss of Mexican shoppers and visitors caused around $4.9 billion in lost GDP in 2020, a report by the Baker Institute calculated.
More than 950,000 people entered the United States from Mexico on foot or in cars on a typical day, according to 2019 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency data.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier said U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico would reopen in November for fully vaccinated travelers. U.S. officials last week said international visitors will need to be inoculated with U.S. or WHO-authorized vaccines.
This poses a major problem for Mexico, which has inoculated millions of people with Russian and Chinese vaccines not yet authorized by WHO. Mexico's government plans to push WHO to authorize other vaccines in public use, Lopez Obrador said.
"The WHO must act correctly, without political or ideological tendencies, sticking to the science," he added.
Mexico has signed agreements for Russian Sputnik V vaccines to inoculate 12 million people and Chinese Cansino vaccines for another 35 million people, according to the foreign ministry. Neither is WHO-approved yet.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the border reopening will coincide with a push to reactivate economic activities in the frontier region, where Mexico has made a vast effort to bring vaccination rates in line with the United States.
He said high-level bilateral economic meetings taking place in November will focus on the border region. Other meetings will be held in coming days to work out details of the reopening.
Ebrard said Mexico had been strongly pushing Washington for the border to reopen, including laying out proposals during a visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
The United States "have accepted many proposals that we made along the way to achieve this", Ebrard said, without giving details.
(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Bernadette Baum)