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Bush sees opportunity to turn a new page'


February 16, 2001|By Erika Buck, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — With a quick day trip to Mexico today, President George W. Bush hopes to strengthen his relationship with President Vicente Fox and lay the groundwork for later policy discussions.

‘‘The president has a very clear sense that we have a historic opportunity here to turn a new page in U.S.-Mexican relations,'' a senior White House official told reporters Thursday. ‘‘The payoff could be enormous over the years for both the United States and Mexico, and I think actually for the entire hemisphere if we can succeed in developing a true partnership with Mexico.''

The two presidents have met before, when Bush was governor of Texas. Taking their personal relationship one step further, Fox has invited Bush to meet his mother in his hometown of San Cristobal. Afterward the presidents will travel to Fox's ranch for a tour and meetings.

Leon Panetta, former White House chief of staff, who runs a policy institute in Monterey, thinks that the meeting with Fox's mother is a smart diplomatic move.


‘‘The key to every foreign leader is probably through his mother's heart,'' Panetta said.

No major policy announcements are expected, but the presidents are expected to discuss issues that include migration, trade, human rights, and energy, said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Bush emphasized his close relationship with Mexico throughout his presidential campaign, and his trip signals that U.S.-Mexico relations top his list of foreign policy priorities.

‘‘Some look to the south and see problems. Not me,'' Bush said Thursday. ‘‘ I look to the south and see opportunities and potential. … The doors are open to a closer partnership with the United States. But nothing about this new relationship is inevitable. Only through hard work will we get it right.''

Immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is expected to be an important issue for the two presidents, both at Friday's meeting and in the future. Bush has expressed opposition to Fox's desire for a general amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the United States.

‘‘The president (Bush) does not believe that amnesty is the only means by which humane treatment and the status of migrants can be addressed,'' the administration official said.

Bush has expressed his interest in a guest worker proposal that would allow workers to enter the country for a short time. Bush will emphasize ‘‘modern'' and ‘‘humane'' border control methods as part of an immigration policy package, the official said.

Also on the agenda was development of Mexico's energy market, which has become a growing interest during California's energy crisis.

The two leaders were considered likely to discuss Fox's desire for the United States to end its annual ‘‘certification'' process, where it evaluates a country's efforts to end drug trafficking. The senior official said Bush is interested in proposals from Fox and several U.S. legislators, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to modify the process, but did not offer specifics.

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