Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Trade Priority at US-Mexico Talks Bush Meets with Mexican President Salinas to Move Nations Closer to Free-Trade Agreement

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Trade Priority at US-Mexico Talks Bush Meets with Mexican President Salinas to Move Nations Closer to Free-Trade Agreement

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Bush makes his first official visit to Mexico today.

But it will be the sixth meeting between Mr. Bush and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. No other Mexican president has put so much emphasis on developing close ties with the United States.

"US and Mexican presidents have met 40 times in the last 80 years. Salinas and Bush have met five times in the last two. That's a lot," says Jose Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez, an adviser to Mexico's foreign affairs minister, Fernando Solana. "The dialogue," he adds, "is producing good results."

US-Mexico relations "have never been more positive, more oriented to the future, and more full of hope," agreed Bernard Aronson, the US State Department assistant secretary of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs last week.

This summit will be brief - just two days - but it will serve to enhance the already close relationship between the leaders and move the two nations closer to a free-trade agreement.

Today Bush will get a tour and lunch (complete with mariachi music) in Agualeguas, Mr. Salinas's home town. It is a quaint, sleepy community just 25 miles from the US border. "Most of the 3,000 inhabitants," quips a local columnist, "can usually be found working in the country of our illustrious visitor."

Tomorrow, the sightseeing will wrap up in nearby Monterrey, one of Mexico's most dynamic economic communities. There, Bush will meet with Mexican businessmen and hold private talks with Salinas. US Secretary of State James Baker III and Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and their Mexican counterparts are also expected to attend and discuss the free-trade deal both sides want.

On this visit, a bilateral education agreement is slated to be signed. Border violence and drug enforcement efforts may also come up. A temporary lifting of a US embargo on Mexican tuna should keep that environmental issue on a back burner. But the focus will be the free-trade pact, Mexican and US officials say.

The Bush administration sees a free-trade agreement as beneficial to US industry - a way of giving US firms easier access to a cheap pool of labor, offsetting the advantage West European firms gain by tapping low-cost labor in Eastern Europe. …

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