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President Bush and President of Mexico Vincente Fox Give News Conference

Aired September 5, 2001 - 10:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to leave this committee hearing just for a moment, and the remarks from Republican Senator Arlen Spector.

We've got some developments at the White House to tell you about, a ceremony going on there -- Leon.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we'll be getting back, we expect some sparks to fly a little bit at least in that Senate hearing.

But you're looking now at a live picture of what's happening at the White House.

President Bush and the first lady Laura Bush, you see her there in the light blue there at the back of crowd to the right of your screen. They have just come out of the White House, and they are about to greet Mexican President Vicente Fox who should be arrive there at the White House any moment now. They've got a great ceremony planned for them, for this arrival.

Let's check in now with out White House correspondent Major Garrett who's standing by there at the White House. Major?

Leon, we're here on the south lawn, an unusual position for us to be, but the White House wanted to make sure that we got live. All the best pictures as possible of this very first state visit of the Bush administration. And the guest of honor: Vicente Fox, president of Mexico.

And there are all sorts of political factors involved in this. Number one, Vicente Fox is a reformer in Mexico. His victory, presidential victory was a shockwave, sent a shockwave, rather, through Mexico. He defeated the Institutional Revolutionary Party which had held sway in Mexico for decades and decades, basically creating a one-party state.

He is conservative, he is a free trader, and President Bush wants to do all that he can to solidify his position in Mexican politics, support his push for free trade, support his general conservative orientation to other politics as well.

And President Bush wanted to bring some results from this visit of Vicente Fox. They had tried to create some sort of new attitude about immigration between the two countries, that's largely failed. The talks will continue, but no breakthrough on immigration. President Fox had come to the United States hoping that there could be an immediate amnesty granted to the estimated three million undocumented Mexican workers in the United States. That's not going to happen. Congressional resistance has been very acute on that topic. Republicans in Congress opposed such an idea when President Clinton was in office, they made it clear this White House, they oppose it now as well.

So, the immigration subject is on a bit of a slower track. In recent interviews, Vicente Fox said it could take four or six years to resolve that difference. There are other issue as well of course, free trade between the two countries has become very robust since the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement. And of courser there is the lingering issue of drug trafficking. That's a bit more complicated to deal with, however, because the Senate has yet to confirm the president's new drug czar, John Walters. So, there will be talks on that, but not with the big man in charge, at least as far as the drug czar position is concerned.

Well, lots of agenda items here between the two countries. President Fox will meet with President Bush in the oval office, and then proceed to a joint cabinet meeting, and then on to other meetings with, among others, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Leon.


HARRIS: You are watching this live ceremony at the White House. You just heard the national anthems for each country, Mexico and the U.S., performed there by the Marine band. And now you see President Bush and President Fox will make their review there.

Let's go back to our Major Garrett who is standing by there live at the White House.

Major, these two men have met each other some, what, four or five times now in the past. I believe you've actually been down to cover one of those meetings have you not?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Five times they have met so far, Leon. I was not down with the president when he made his first international trip as the new U.S. president, that was in February, down to Vicente Fox's ranch in Mexico. And that's one of the things these two gentleman share, a love of ranch life, a love of the western sort of way of living.

They are good friends. They knew each other before both rose to their levels of prominence in their respective countries, politically at least. Governor Bush as governor of Texas knew Vicente Fox as he was a candidate, trying to win the presidency of Mexico.

You can see now they are reviewing the troops arrayed here on the south lawn. It is a very special privilege granted to any recipient of a state visit. A review of the military troops here on the south lawn always a stately and elegant procedure. See the two presidents walking past the troops there. They have a very solid relationship. This visit really isn't about building a good relationship. The two already have it. It's about dealing with some very difficult political issues, immigration chief among them. They have had limited success so far on that because there is political resistance, as I mentioned earlier, in the U.S. Congress to that. But, symbolically this means a lot, and there is a great domestic political value to this visit as well.

HARRIS: And major, in fact, Major, you mentioned -- you speak of that, and it was brought to my mind, as comments from President Fox about trying to increase the stature of Mexico on the world stage. And events like this have got to be helping in that effort.

GARRETT: Absolutely. And, of course, Mexico, because of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, has become a major economic player. When the president travels, for example, to Shanghai in China later in October, President Fox will be there as part of the American Civic Economic Cooperation talks, which brings together not only countries in Asia, but major economic powers in the western hemisphere. Mexico will be a part of that as well.

As far as the domestic political relationship here, Leon, it's no accident whatsoever that we are allowed to take these pictures live, that I am out here on the south lawn, where I typically am not allowed. The White House wants as many pictures of this state visit as possible, not only broadcast here in the United States, but broadcast over Spanish speaking television throughout Mexico, and throughout the United States for that matter.

They want to send the message, this is a new Republican president, aware of the issues that are important to Hispanic- Americans, and making a very definite political outreach to them, substantively and symbolically.

HARRIS: Let's talk a little bit more about those issues, as you mention them. We know that there is the matter of the illegal immigrants, and three million of which in the U.S. and the status is going to be discussed at length between these two leaders. But there are some other issues as well.

I have heard that Vicente Fox is has not been pleased with the U.S.'s handling of the -- deciding from time to time whether or not, every year I guess, whether or not Mexico is holding up its end in the fight against drugs. How is that issue to be addressed here?

GARRETT: Well, it is a very tough issue. Mexico does not like -- feels insulted by congressionally mandated certification process, whereupon every year it has to be certified that it's doing its part to fight the war on drugs. Mexico is insulted by that, because they believe they work at the issue aggressively every year and don't need to have to prove to the United States each and every year that it's doing its part.

Now the president of the United States, President Bush, has said he wants to review that annual certification process and possibly find a better way for the two countries to work together on drug interdiction. As I mentioned in my introduction, those talk, though, substantive indeed will be a bit hamstrung, because the president's drug czar hasn't been confirmed by the Senate.

So one key player in those talks will not be present, at least in official status. That's going to hamper those talks a bit, but it is crucial issue, and it all relates to immigration and the whole border control issue. When the president talks about being a good neighbor, he wants to create a better relationship between the two countries, and starts first and foremost among the border, the border patrol rather aggressively. There have been numerous deaths of Mexican immigrants trying to cross into the United States. The president wants to deal with that. So these things are all interrelated.

MCEDWARDS: Major, also on the issue of trade, which has been important to the two, I imagine for President Vicente Fox, it is important for him in playing to his home country for them to be seeing these very pictures. NAFTA has been so important to Mexico's economy. GDP rising by 7 percent last year. So with the slowdown in the U.S. economy, Mexico has been hurt as well. Lots of hard times as well?

GARRETT: That's right. When you have two countries that trade as much as they have since the advent of NAFTA, whenever the U.S. economy begins to slows down, among the first sets of producers who are going to feel it are those is Mexico. There have been layoffs. There is some concern -- I wouldn't describe it as panic at all -- as there is -- let's be honest, across the world about the future of the U.S. economy, and they are watching that closely. Among the meetings President Fox will have is with the head of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, and also leaders from the International Monetary Fund to talk about international economics as well.

But, Colleen, you are absolutely right, Fox's presence here gives him tremendous stature back home. Let's pause and let's hear the president of the United States.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Distinguished guests, on behalf of the American people, it is my honor to welcome you to the United States.


BUSH: Mexico is the first country I visited as president. Today it is my privilege to welcome President Fox for the first state visit of my administration. This is a recognition that the United States has no more important relationship in the world than the one we have with Mexico.


BUSH: The starting point of a sound foreign policy is to build a stable and prosperous neighborhood, with good relations amongst neighbors. Good neighbors work together, and benefit from each other's successes.

(SPEAKING IN SPANISH) BUSH: Mr. President, you are a Mexican patriot with a great vision for a great people, a vision of justice and prosperity. Your election signals a new birth of freedom for Mexico and set an example for the entire world. The United States is proud to stand besides you, as your partner and as your friend.


BUSH: Our nations have an historic opportunity to build an authentic partnership grounded in trust and in freedom. Since 1994, the free trade agreement amongst our two countries and Canada has created millions of jobs and lifted millions of lives.


BUSH: NAFTA stands as a model for the benefits that are possible when trade is open and free. Today, our two nations are working together to extend the benefits of free trade throughout our hemisphere and throughout the world.


BUSH: Our common interests, however, extend far beyond commerce. We value the cultural contributions each nation makes to each other. We treasure the family ties that bind so many millions of our citizens. We understand that the border we share is a vibrant region that unites us.


BUSH: We understand that our two nations must work together in a spirit of respect and common purpose, to seize opportunities and tackle challenges on the issues that affect the lives of our citizens, including migration, the environment, drugs, crime, corruption and education.


BUSH: And both our governments share a great project, a fully Democratic western hemisphere that grows in prosperity and trades in freedom. Some have described the century just past as the American century. Now we look forward. We have a chance to build a century of the Americas in which all our people, north and south, find the blessings of liberty. This goal is worthy of our two great nations.


BUSH: A Mexican proverb tells us that...


BUSH: He who has a good neighbor, has a good friend. Today both our countries are committed to being good neighbors, and good friends. Friends deal in good faith and disagree with respect. Friends stick together in good times and in bad.


BUSH: Most of all, friends bring out the best in each other. Today Mexico and the United States are bringing out the best in each other, in commerce, in culture, and in our shared commitment to Democratic values.


BUSH: We're building a relationship that is unique in the world, a relationship of unprecedented closeness and cooperation, and this visit is a milestone on that journey.


BUSH: President Fox, in February, you welcomed me in your home in Guanouato. Today Laura and I and the American people are honored to welcome you and Mrs. Fox to the Casa Blanca in Vuesta Paiste (ph).

Thank you for coming.


VINCENTE FOX, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO (through translator): President George Bush, Mrs. Laura Welsh Bush, ladies and gentlemen, friends all, I want to express to you my most sincere thanks for this warm reception and to present to you, Mr. President, and to the people of the United States, the greeting of fraternity, warmth and solidarity of the people of Mexico.

It is a great honor for me to come once again to this great nation, and to have the privilege of enjoying our hospitality.

I have come to Washington today as the president of a Democratic Mexico, of a Mexico determined to become a prosperous, secure nation. Open to the world, a vibrant and dynamic country, which seeks not only to strengthen its bonds of friendship with the rest of the international community, but is also determined to play more active role in establishing the new international architecture.

I have said with conviction on several occasions that our two countries at present are living in an era which is unique in the history of our relations, an era full of challenges that we must face united, and of opportunities which we must take up together.

For it is only in this way that we will be able to make that area of prosperity shared between Mexico and the United States that we are building a reality, along with Canada and all of North America.

Today, our countries have an intense flow of trade. Today, Mexico buys from the United States more products and services than from Spain, Germany, France and Italy combined.

We share the most dynamic border in the world. The contacts between the cities and the states along the border are growing and diverse in nature, and our societies have links which grow stronger and more friendly every day.

We wish to take advantage of that foundation in order to strengthen our economic ties, providing a lasting and mutually beneficial solution to the challenges that naturally arise in a relationship as complex and dynamic as our own.

We wish to consolidate our cultural and educational exchange, aware of the wealth of our heritage and traditions and providing -- attaching special importance to scientific, technological, and computer exchanges.

We also wish to strengthen every sense of the word our cooperation in fighting drug trafficking and organized crime.

Likewise, we want to continue making progress towards the establishment of an agreement on migration, which will be of mutual benefit to us, and which will recognize, above all, the value of migrants as human beings and as workers, whose hard work is a daily contribution to the prosperity of this great nation.

The time has come to give migrants and their communities their proper place in the history of our bilateral relations. Both our countries owe them a great deal.


FOX: And working together, both of us can build new conditions of fairness for them as well as for the development and prosperity of our two nations.

For this reason, we must and we can reach an agreement on migration before the end of this very year, which will allow us before the end of our respective terms to make sure that there are no Mexicans who have not entered this country legally in the United States, and that those Mexicans who have come into the country do so with the proper documents.

Mr. President, the values that we share and the interests that bind us must reaffirm our determination to make of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, an example of prosperity and understanding.

And this will only be possible if we are willing to strengthen the trust between our two nations. Because it is only through trust that we will be able to reach the goals that we have set for ourselves.

Together let us defend the values of democracy and the respect for human right in our region and throughout the world. Let us see free trade as the engine of economic growth and the source of a better standard of living for our two peoples. Let us understand development with justice to be an inclusive form of prosperity. Let us make law and respect for the law the indispensable framework on which the freedom and security of our citizens depend.

Let us walk together a long the path of prosperity with a firm step as partners and as friends. Recalling the words of Benjamin Franklin, "A brother may not be a friend, but a friend will always be a brother."

Mr. President, my friend, you honored me by visiting my home in Mexico. Today I feel honored to be welcomed here in the White House.

Thank you very much.


HARRIS: And with that, we've heard the comments this morning, the prepared comments from both President Bush and president of Mexico Vicente Fox.

Let's go to Major Garrett not too far from the podium -- Major.

GARRETT: Not too far at all.

President Bush said the relationship with Mexico is the most important in U.S. international policy. He also said the 20th century has been called the American century. He said, let's hope the 21st century of the Americas. A clear indication that President Bush wants not only U.S. policy Mexico with to be firm, steadfast and beneficial to both countries, but also that the relationship spread benefits throughout the hemisphere.

President Fox making it clear that he wants to deal with the immigration issue, but also talking about dealing with America on a whole host of issues, also, notably, saying that he want Mexico to be a player on the world stage, dealing with human rights and other human issues, something Mexico has not been allowed to do in recent memory.

The subtext of this, Leon, is the era of possibilities that President Bush believes President Fox's election represents. He is no longer tied to that one-party state, political system that was instituted by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. He is a duly and freely elected new leader of Mexico, and with that, President Bush believes so much more than ever has in the past can be accomplished -- Leon.

HARRIS: Yes, Major, I caught some of that same sentiment. I noted the words of Vicente Fox, saying something like, Mexico may take a more active role in establishing the international architecture. But I must ask you something, if you caught something that I think I caught. I want to make sure I got it straight, but he did make his comments about immigration, and he made clear, because he spent quite a bit of time talking about that -- he said, the time come to give migrants their proper place, and both countries owe them a great deal. He went on to say that they must and can make an agreement on this before the end of the year. That sounds a bit different from the comments that we heard from him earlier?

GARRETT: Yes, and I was paying very close attention to that, Leon. And then right after that, he said to make sure that all immigrants entering the United States do so legally and with the proper legal papers. I'm going to have to go back to look at the transcript. I believe what he was referring to was maybe creating an understanding about future migration into the United States, and a way to make that speedier, more legal, as far as the underlying issue as dealing with an estimated three million undocumented or illegal Mexican workers in the United States now. That clearly is not going to be resolved in this calendar year. The Congress has made it clear, that's just not simply discussable.

The president doesn't want a blanket amnesty program. They're working on various means of dealing with possibly a guest worker, status that would be a bridge to a legal status for those three million or so Mexican workers, undocumented workers in the United States. But I don't believe, President Fox saying we are going to wrap up all of these issues by the end of this year.

HARRIS: That may be a bit ambitious. I understand President Bush himself has already said there's not much appetite for that in Congress right now. They may take time to change minds there.

GARRETT: Absolutely.

HARRIS: Give us an idea quickly if you can of what exactly will be on the agenda for the two men for the rest of the day?

GARRETT: Well, as the presidents head into the White House now, they will go to the Oval Office for the meeting, talking between themselves in a joint cabinet meeting between the cabinets of the United States government and the cabinets of the Mexican government. Then the President Fox will meet with Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, and also leaders of the International Monetary Fund later today. Tomorrow, a joint address to joint session of Congress on -- address to joint session of Congress.

Then the two presidents held to Toledo, Ohio, symbolic in two ways. First of all, Toledo, Ohio is the rubber capital of America. They call itself that. That is an industrial part of the heartland. Someplace that not necessarily all too hot on the idea of the North American Free Trade Agreement when it was debated. But minds have changed. The president wants to illustrate that. That's one reason they will go there tomorrow.

HARRIS: And, Major, I can see you were telling the truth. You did get good seat today. Best seat yet.


HARRIS: Thanks much. Major Garrett at the White House.



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