Still Bush's Best Amigo?
When George W. Bush entered the White House, he had one foreign-policy priority: Latin America. Mexico was the only country that the former Texas governor knew well, and he had big plans for tighter economic and political bonds between all the nations of the Americas. September 11 changed all that. While attending the opening of the U. N. General Assembly two weeks ago, the man Bush has repeatedly called his "amigo," Vicente Fox, had only a brief chat with the U.S. president, who was preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan and regions farther afield. And that was the least of Fox's worries: as the U.S. economy tanks, Mexico's fortunes look ever more bleak and much of his domestic agenda has stalled. But determined to put the best face on his country's prospects, Fox took time from meeting with other heads of state to talk with a group of NEWSWEEK editors in New York. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What did you talk to President Bush about this morning?
FOX: A very quick review of what we're doing together: how we're advancing on money and bank accounts related to terrorism. Border activity--where the flow and the crossing time is back up to 80 percent of what it was two months ago. [I] also suggested that countries should have information daily or monthly on what's going on [with the war effort] so that we can maintain this cohesiveness. Finally, we discussed the bilateral, regional and multilateral agendas. In the case of Mexico and the United States, on Nov. 19 we'll [have bilateral meetings] discussing security, narcotraffic and organized crime, and on Nov. 20 we'll address migration. We're back to business.
What about the economic impact of September 11 on Mexico?
We're discovering that the huge impact of September 11 is on the economies of the world. That's maybe what's building up all this unity. It's not only the dramatic losses in Washington or New York, it's what we're losing all over the world: one whole year of development, maybe two or three. In the case of Mexico, we've been able to navigate with relative success. We have not lost many jobs, our inflation rate is falling, our interest rates are coming down, our reserves are at a historic level, investment keeps flowing in and our currency is strong. Macroeconomically, the fundamentals are strong. On the other hand, we have to worry about protecting small- and medium-size businesses and the jobs we have. We have to do everything possible to return to growth--and this is where our tax reform presented to Congress is key.
Fiscal reform doesn't seem to have gone anywhere, and now you have the rise within the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI] of a more left-wing, union-oriented leadership. …