President Barack Obama shakes hands with Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto prior to their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Obama meets with Peña Nieto

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is hailing the close relationship between the United States and Mexico as he meets with President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto four days before the new Mexican leader takes office.

Obama praised Peña Nieto’s “ambitious reform agenda” and said he was confident the two countries will be able to strengthen longstanding economic and trade ties and increase security along their common border.

President Barack Obama and Mexican president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto said Tuesday that they would work together on U.S. immigration reform as the president’s second term gets under way.

“Just as President-Elect Peña Nieto’s reform agenda is of great interest to us because what happens in Mexico has an impact on our society, I know he’s interested in what we do as well on issues like comprehensive immigration reform,” Obama said to reporters after the two met privately in the Oval Office.

Peña Nieto expressed his willingness to be involved in crafting such legislation, given the importance of Mexican immigration to the United States – according to the Pew Hispanic Center, the Mexican-American population numbered 33 million in 2010, including both immigrants and U.S.-born residents of Mexican ancestry.

“We fully support your proposal, sir,” Peña Nieto said, speaking through an interpreter. “More than demanding that what you should do or shouldn’t do, we do want to tell you that we want to contribute” so that “we can participate in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country.”

Obama joked that he was “jealous” of Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading a U.S. delegation to attend Peña Nieto’s inauguration on Dec. 1. “We only send the vice president to inaugurations when the country is really at the top of the list in importance to us,” Obama joked.

Peña Nieto congratulated Obama on winning a second term and said he was looking forward to strengthening already close relations between the countries.

The two men spoke to reporters before meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office.

NBC News’ Ali Weinberg contributed to this report. 

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