US Foresees Foreign Policy Impact of Mexican Trade Pact

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NORTH American free-trade pact or not, Mexico is continuing a long tradition of charting its own course in foreign affairs.

The United States joined the European Community last month in lifting economic sanctions against South Africa. Mexico did not. And Nelson Mandela, the spare, globe-trotting leader of the African National Congress, was in Mexico yesterday and is in Brazil today during a Caribbean and Latin American tour shoring up support for continued sanctions.

"We ask you ... to apply all pressure against the white regime," Mr. Mandela told a large gathering of diplomats, intellectuals, and local politicians at the Mexican Foreign Ministry Monday.

South Africa would like to buy Mexican oil and sell mining equipment here. But Mexico remains one of the few nations still maintaining a complete diplomatic and trading ban. Until the black majority gets the right to vote, sanctions will remain, Mexican officials say.

South Africa is not the only example of sometimes stark US-Mexican foreign policy differences.

Central America has been an area of contention throughout the 1980s. Mexico, for example, condemned the 1989 US invasion of Panama and still refuses to recognize President Guillermo Endara's right to rule.

The Sandinista guerrillas had the full backing of Mexico when they overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels in El Salvador have offices in Mexico.

The US and Mexico butted heads over Cuba as recently as June, when Mexico sought the island nation's readmission to the Organization of American States, from which it was excluded in 1962.

"We can create a favorable political climate in Cuba by stimulating trade and tourism and inviting the Cuban government to take part in international meetings," argued Mexican Foreign Minister Fernando Solana. The US opposed the move.

But there is speculation that a North American free-trade pact may usher in an era of less conflictive US-Mexico policies. …