[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Ask Mexico's President Fox
President Fox answered your questions in our interactive phone-in, Talking Point.


  • Transcript


    Vicente Fox won Mexico's presidential elections in 2000 - the first opposition candidate to hold the post.

    He promised to tackle the widespread corruption that had dominated Mexican political life and reduce poverty levels.

    However, many Mexicans are disillusioned by the lack of progress. Corruption scandals continue, and recent figures show that more than half of Mexico's 100 million people are living in poverty.

    Mexico was one of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council in the days before the war in Iraq. Their vote would have been critical in endorsing the military action in Iraq.

    What would you ask Mexico's president? How are relations with his northern neighbour, the US? What progress has been made on tackling poverty and corruption?



    Transcript


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Welcome to Talking Point. I'm Mike Wooldridge broadcasting on BBC World Television, Radio and Online. Today I'm joined by the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox. We're here at the President's official residence, Los Pinos - the pine trees - in the heart of the nation's capital Mexico City. With a population of 20 million, it's one of the most densely populated cities in the world and is the centre of the nation's political, cultural and economic life.

    Vicente Fox won the presidential election three years ago, bringing to an end seven decades of one party rule under the institutional revolutionary party the PRI. He committed his government to promoting better distribution of income in Mexico and to tackling corruption and violence. And he was the first head of state to be visited by US President George W. Bush when both men spoke of shared prosperity.

    Mexicans are preparing to go to the polls again, this time to vote in mid-term congressional elections on the 6th July.

    Mr President welcome to Talking Point. If I can just ask you first, is the relationship with the United States the dominant issue in Mexican politics and if so how would you say it's been affected by your unwillingness to support the Americans over the Iraq war?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well the relationship with the United States no doubt is strategic and it's key and most important to us. In a way the Mexican economy is very closely tied to the US economy through NAFTA agreements, so now we're partners..


    Mike Wooldridge:

    The free trade agreement


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes sir. We're partners and we work together for investment, for creating jobs and for developing both of our economies. So it's very key in our foreign relations strategy.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    So because of that then how much would you say it's been affected by the stand that you took over the Iraq war?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well on the overall picture and on the highly integrated agenda - bilateral agenda - that we have with the United States I would say that it's not affected through the process of the Iraqi war. Although we did have a difference on the procedures to be followed with the United States, today we're back to a very strong relationship.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Well we have lots of callers on the line waiting to talk to you. The first is Eric Hovius in Toronto, Canada. Mr Hovius, what would you like to ask President Fox?


    Eric Hovius:

    Yes President Fox, it's a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you. My question comes, because I live on the other side of the great mountain, if you will, and I was just wondering what are the positive and negative aspects of being so closely linked with the United States, both economically and now increasingly culturally?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well I would say that positive aspects have to do with being a neighbour of the largest market in the world and the largest economy. This certainly means opportunities to us, not only in investment or in business development in Mexico but also, for instance, in tourism. Mexico receives over 20 million visitors every year as tourists into our country and most of them would come from the United States. So it's very important.

    Now on the other side it's a relationship that has problems frequently - that sometimes we face conflict. But fortunately we have the maturity and we have the capacity - both of our countries - to overcome those problems. We have a border where close to a million citizens cross every day. So it's a very, very busy border, one of the busiest borders in the world.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    And of course many of those illegally, isn't it which is all part of the problem.


    President Vicente Fox:

    Part of it. Those million are registered and do cross legally. We do have migrants that cross illegally but do not compare with this amount I'm talking about - we're talking about 365 million people that cross that border every day, for going to school, for coming to work..


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Over the year.


    President Vicente Fox:

    .. who are visiting, as tourists or any other reason.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Mr Hovius, do you feel that that's answered the question that you were putting?


    Eric Hovius:

    Certainly. I do have a follow up question: do you feel that there are now increasing strengths with the growing Hispanic population of the United States?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well we're very proud of those Mexicans - paisanos - that are in the United States working. They contribute largely to the growth and development of the US economy. They are quality working people, they are - they enjoy and produce large productivity. So we're very proud of them and also because they are successful and today we're sending back to the families a figure of 10 billion US dollars every year that comes to our economy and certainly it's of help to their families.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Let me bring in now our second caller, I think on the same general issue, Robert Misulich in Apalachin, New York, I think you're just 16 years-old aren't you Robert?


    Robert Misulich:

    Yes. Mr Fox Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks, there was a renewed effort by President Bush of the US to reconcile the differences between the United States and Mexico, to shed the centuries of distrust, and to move towards a closer, friendlier relationship between neighbours. It seemed that President Bush sought to make improved Mexican/American relations one of his major goals as president. However, things seem to have changed. Ever since the terrorist attacks, Bush has been talking about terrorism, national security, and never-ending tax cuts. He seems to have side-lined improved relations with Mexico. Have you been in contact with President Bush and if so, what was discussed? If not, what would you like to discuss with him?


    President Vicente Fox:

    September 11th changed the world and the priorities and responsibilities of governments changed also, significantly after September 11th. Before that date we did have a very strong frequent relationship, very constructive on the bilateral agenda and the tri-lateral - including Canada when we speak about NAFTA - and right after that, yes other priorities came into the attention of the US government and this has been since up until the Iraqi war finished.

    Now we're back to the bilateral agenda. As an example, we just had an extraordinary meeting in San Francisco, California where 800 businessmen - half from Mexico, half from the United States - gathered, including different secretaries of state from Mexico and secretaries from the US government which had the opportunity to in depth on the agenda and work out our bilateral activities and I think it's very strong step ahead now on our responsibilities of both governments to attend our relationship.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    We've had many e-mails in to our website, both in English and in Spanish, and a number of them have been on Iraq. We've had e-mails from Iraq itself, from Zambia, from Australia, from the United States as well as from here - from Mexico. I'd like to just put two of those to you, one from Mohammed Mumsa in Los Angeles who says: "Mr President, ask President Bush where are the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Have you asked him that or would you want to do so?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No, no we're back to our bilateral agenda and we're back to face the future. What we are now dealing with the United States, what we are working in the United Nations Security Council, is the future. What we care about is what's next with Iraq, when we all together have to attend the reconstruction of Iraq and we have to promote human development in a strong democracy in Iraq. So we in Mexico are looking at the future and building together with the United Nations Security Council that better future for Iraq.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    But is that an important issue for you - the weapons of mass destruction and whether they existed or not?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No, it's not - it's not. To us that was the past, we expressed our position through the process but today we are on very positive terms constructing the future.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Well another of those e-mails on Iraq, this one from Australia, from Boris Forey in the Gold Coast, asks: "What sort of incentives, if any, did the Bush administration offer Mexico in return for a vote endorsing military action in Iraq?" Of course you didn't in the end have to vote on it and it's said that you wouldn't, were there any incentives to vote in favour?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No and we don't buy or sell principles. To us it's a key commitment of this government to move by values and to move by principles and that's not at stake and not for sale. And we would never offer any gratification on any proposal to change our views on the Iraqi process. They did not offer anything - we would not have accepted anything.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Well we have another caller on the line, Adal Porras calling in from Costa Rica, but also I think somebody who lives in Miami as well. Adal Porras, what's your question to the President?


    Adal Porras:

    Yes hello President Fox, my question to you is, with all the immigrants lately that have come in and all the people that have died - like the people in Texas that died in the trucks a few months back, the ones caught in the desert - does Mexico feel or does the Mexican government feel that they do have a right in suing the United States for the deaths of these people that were trying to cross to the US?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No it's nothing we have considered - suing or anything like it. We consider that migration is an issue that has to do with both governments. As I said before, the US economy gets a very strong support and help through the work of all these Mexicans in the United States. They're people with dignity, they are people that have quality and that are human beings looking for opportunities.

    The United States and Mexico should work - and we're working on - trying to build up some structure and some process and project at the end to be able to deal with migration in positive terms. I think that it will be a win/win situation. The United States is becoming an aged population, its boom generation is now retiring and it's on pension plans. Mexico's boom generation is just 18 years old and they're coming as a very strong energy and very strong labour working force. And if we can put together these aspects we could have a very strategic and positive managing or moving on the migration issue.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Also on the line and I think also wanting to ask about this issue is Juventino Gutierrez, calling in from New York.


    Juventino Gutierrez:

    Thank you for taking my call. I'm concerned that the proposed bilateral agreement on immigration will be too narrow and that it will simply be used as a means of supplying specific sectors, such as the service sector of the hotels etc. and the agricultural sectors where they are a regulated relatively cheap labour force. Are there positions in the agreement, as it stands now, that allow for workers to do such things as change jobs, join unions or extend legal status to their immediate families?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No, no for the moment first there's no agreement yet. What we've been doing is discussing and building up the whole structure of the system that could be proposed to Congress in the United States. All this was happening before September 11th. As I mentioned since then up until now, the issue had not advanced and we were not dealing with it because priorities changed.

    Now we are getting back together to the issue and what we did in the meantime is to come up with what we call partnership for prosperity, which is an agreement that we both governments, signed last year in Monterey, Mexico, when President Bush visited Mexico. And we're working there on over 30 actions that have to do with some aspects of migration but in the sense of building up opportunities in Mexico in the migrant communities, for instance, or that had to do with lowering the cost of the transferences of the Mexicans working in the United States to their families in Mexico. Or that have to do with the issuance of this ID card that we are issuing in the Mexican Consulate so that Mexicans in the United States would have this ID card and use it to open up their check account or bank account, to get their driver's licence or to be able to go to a university using that ID card. So we are advancing in all this - over 30 projects - composed on the partnership for prosperity but we are not back yet to the migration issue in depth, so that I could speak about details as the ones you mentioned.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    This whole issue of immigration into the United States, legal and illegal, is another one where we've had many e-mails, as you can imagine. One from Argos Gonzalez, in the United States asks, for example: "Do you think that your agenda to protect the human rights of Mexicans, illegal and legal, in the United States has been hurt due to your refusal to give the United States a vote of approval to its resolution approving war in Iraq?" So again we're talking about a refocusing of priorities. But would you say that this particular issue has been affected by your stand on the Iraq war?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No, no they're completely different issues. We, every day and every minute of the day, work to defend human rights, not only of Mexicans but in any part of the world where they are violated and particularly we work on making sure that human rights of Mexicans crossing the US border are thoroughly respected and thoroughly guaranteed.

    And of course it's very sad when we have to see events, like the one we saw in Victoria, Texas where several Mexicans died there, when these smugglers, these people, these so-called polleros bring them into United States with a high risk to their lives and to their health. So we work with the US authorities to cut these polleros and to take them to jail.

    Just two week ago we caught in Senora over 26 of them and today they are in jail. We work together at making sure that human rights are respected. That's something that is fully guaranteed in work by our government.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Where would you rank this issue of Mexicans going to the United States in the various human rights initiatives you would say that you're addressing under your government? Has it got the highest priority of all?


    President Vicente Fox:

    It does have a very strong priority - we have meetings constantly with the US authority, we work on customs and migration on the border, we're modernising including technical equipment. We work both in trying to make sure that people in Mexico learn of the dangers of trying to go to the United States illegally and we do have frequent inspections on the border, on the desert, making sure that we bring the message to all those Mexicans that could be thinking of crossing that border illegally.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    What of other issues on your human rights agenda? I think you have, for example, been critical in recent times of Cuba over human rights issues, where previously Mexican governments have tended to stay silent.


    President Vicente Fox:

    First of all we have taken many actions to pull up to date our whole structure of guaranteeing human rights respects within Mexico. We have signed in the past many agreements with different world institutions that have to do with human rights but we never included them in our laws. So I put it in several Bills in law initiatives in Mexico to make sure that now it's by law that we're obliged to work on human rights in Mexico.

    The United Nations Human Rights Commission is opening up an office in Mexico. So we work very openly. What steps have we taken? For instance, we have freed from jail over one thousand indigenous people that were claiming that their human rights were violated. We also liberated and released from jail other people like the two ecologists in the state of Guerroro, that was world famous, that they claimed that they were put in jail violating their human rights, we freed them and took them out of jail and so on, we work closely.

    And yes we have taken a stand, a position, on human rights. And we have participated in all courts - the criminal court or the penal court - and world institutions so that we make sure that our commitment with human rights translates into actions in specific resolutions.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Let's turn to our next caller. Calling in from Latvia a Mexican who's living in Latvia, Viesturs Zagars, what would you like to ask the President?


    Viesturs Zagars:

    Mr President Fox I would like to ask you, how have you been able to make any changes with the parliament - with both houses not being in your control?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes, thank you for the question. We are a government that is minority in Congress. But even though I was reviewing figures for two years, in two years we have presented 60 initiatives to Congress out of which 75% have been approved. We still have some that are key, pending for approval. So it's been an intense job to work with Congress to be able to reach a consensus.

    We have, for instance, laws that are very, very important like it is the case of indigenous rights and culture, like it is the case of our new law just recently approved that had to do with the obligation of government to release information - all the information - that is in the hands of the government now by law we have to release it. We have a law that is a paradigm which has to do with health whereby we're creating a new health system for all those who did not have that protection up until now or other many laws in the financial area that have given us today a very modern structure of our financial institutions.

    So we have advanced but still we have some challenges to overcome. This transition has been difficult but we have moved on and today I can say we have a much better understanding and relationship with Congress than the one we had at the beginning of my government. So we have both sides learned that it's very key that we produce results for the benefit of Mexico.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    What are you predicting for the coming elections next month?


    President Vicente Fox:

    I don't make predictions but I see polls and polls show that we will have a situation very similar to the one we had on the July 2nd year 2000 election. So what shows in the polls is that nobody is going to have majority in Congress - not one single party will have that majority. So we'll have to keep on working, building consensus and strengthening our relationship with Congress.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    It also means some of the frustrations will continue presumably?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well, the opportunities also.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    We've had an e-mail really on this same area from Oscar Montaņa Perez from Santiago in Chile who asks you: "How did you confront the challenge of taking the reigns of a country that for many decades was dominated by only one party?" I know that some people have compared it to the Berlin Wall falling, for example, the Mexican equivalent of that?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well it was large democratic participation of Mexican people to change things as they were and the year 2000 - July 2nd - finally the change came and I've no doubt that it released the energy of the Mexican people and moved the country to new standards and new levels of the way government runs the economy, the way we are consolidating our democracy. And working hard is the way we're going to be able to meet all the commitments we made on that campaign.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    This is a special edition of Talking Point with President Vicente Fox of Mexico taking your calls on Mexico and Mexico's role on the international stage. Let's turn to our next caller who I hope is on the line, Jaime Vizcaya, from Helsinki in Finland.


    Jaime Vizcaya:

    Hello Mr President. First of all I have to tell you I came to continue my studies and I discovered that here they have a very high level of studies. So I want to know if you have short-term plans to improve the national educational levels in Mexico?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes to us it's key building of human capital and to make sure that our education, public education system, has two very strong characteristics. One is equity, we're making sure that every single kid in Mexico has the same opportunity to reach as far as he wishes on his stories and his preparation. We have launched a scholarship programme whereby close to one million young people now are in universities and technical schools thanks to that scholarship system that is granted by federal government.

    This gave us the possibility to move from 19% of kids that were in university in the year 2000 up to 22.2% of kids that are today in Mexican universities. The other challenge is quality and efficiency of our public education system. I think we have many - best universities that are comparable to the best in the world, like UNAM, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, which is our pride university, public university and that is in Mexico City. And as well as that we have private universities, as the Technologico de Monterrey, which is associated with the best universities in the world and has the highest of the highest quality standards on their education programmes.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Jaime Vizcaya are you satisfied with that answer?


    Jaime Vizcaya:

    I would like to ask, do you think that industry and education could find a way to start working together in Mexico, like especially in universities and polytechnics?


    President Vicente Fox:

    It is indispensable and we must keep on promoting this because yet we have a long way to go. But schools like Technologica of Monterey or schools like Conalep which is a public technical school, are now totally linked with the productive system in Mexico. And more and more of our universities are getting that link growing stronger and stronger. This is a key point that you're mentioning and we are promoting and highly committed to advance because as I said we yet have a lot more to do in this field.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    We've had an e-mail in from Barcelona from Daniel Serralde, who in fact throws a challenge to you on this same issue. He says: "I'm a Mexican national and had to emigrate to Europe to find a job as an economist. What are you doing to stop the brain drain and where are the millions of jobs that you promised?"


    President Vicente Fox:

    Many, many Mexicans unfortunately are outside the country either studying in universities or doing their PhD degrees and of course we have the other side of the coin - those who are out of the country looking for an opportunity for a job. And many of them are the least prepared and educated, that have to go looking for whatever job they can find.

    Yes we spoke about the need in Mexico of one million additional jobs every year. And we're working hard to attain those jobs. Unfortunately this last two years, globally and to all economies, we're not enjoying the growth that we had the last five years before this period of not growing. And we're working hard to have those jobs in Mexico. Fortunately we've been able to keep our own employment rate at a rate of 2.7% and this should be one of the best situations in relation to jobs that exist worldwide because I see many countries that have up to 20% unemployment rate. So Mexico's keeping its jobs although we're not generating the ones that we need.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Would you accept the premise really that lies behind the question there, and it's reflected in other e-mails too, that jobs, perhaps along with the whole business of immigrants in the United States, are areas where you are particularly under pressure to deliver on your own promises that brought you to power?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes no doubt, that was part of our campaign. And what we need is to make the economy grow and we're working towards that. And to make the economy grow we need investment and fortunately - let me give you here a figure - in the last two years foreign direct investment throughout the world had a decrease of 54% reduction, when in the case of Mexico in this last two years the increase has been 25.8% of foreign direct investment coming into Mexico. And fortunately the first quarter of this year the investment is flowing at the same rate and levels that we had in the past years. So we are happy with that but we still need more and that's why we're inviting all our entrepreneurs and businessmen, investors in Mexico to do the same and we, as government, are also working through the public private investment formula bringing in close to US $40 billion worth of investment in energy, housing and infrastructure.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Our next caller on the line is Tom Kelley from Texas. Go ahead please with your question to President Fox.


    Tom Kelley:

    Hello President Fox. Thank you for taking my call. Since you have become the President of Mexico what has your administration done to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Oh we have done much more than consumption has been reduced in the United States because this is a double-faced formula. As long as there is consumption in the United States there will be production in other parts of the world. So we need to work both sides. And we fortunately work very, very closely with US authorities in this matter and I think we have made very strong advances.

    For instance, let me give you some numbers. In this last two years we have taken to jail over 18,000 criminals that were associated with the cartels or with the organised crime in drug trafficking and we have dismantled many of their leaders and their organisations. A case like Osiel Cardenas in Tamaulipas, he was the head of one of the largest cartels in Mexico and now he is in jail. So we're working everyday to try to stop the trafficking through Mexico into United States. But this work has to be done also by US authorities because many of us wonder how can so much drugs cross our border and be distributed within the United States and reach the consumer. So it's an obligation of both of us to work on this issue.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Tom Kelly what do you think, do you accept that that higher level of pressure is being put on the whole drugs business now by the Mexican government?


    Tom Kelley:

    Well I was going to ask other than arresting the top drug lords and the military insiders who protect them, what has been done to dismantle the actual architecture of the drug trade within Mexico?


    President Vicente Fox:

    What do you mean by architecture?


    Tom Kelley:

    The day-to-day systems by which people trade drugs. I understand if you target the highest standing drug cartels and you arrest their leaders you could put a short-term dent in the drug trade. But how do you focus on the long-term problem of the day-to-day user of drugs, not only within the US but within the country of Mexico?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes unfortunately drug consumption in Mexico is also growing, at much lower levels than it is in the United States or other countries but it's still growing and this is a big concern that we have. And we have put out intense programmes on trying to reduce production as well as trying to reduce consumption.

    Let's not forget that most of the drugs that goes to the United States is not produced in Mexico - it comes from South America or it comes from other countries. So Mexico is a transit place for drugs. And the more we stop the crossing of that drug to the United States the more they are using it to corrupt or to get involved in drugs our kids in Mexico. So we have to work on both sides of the problem.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Also on drugs we've had an e-mail from Parrett in Austin, Texas who says: "With Canada's recent moves to decriminalise Marijuana for personal use, they're positioning themselves to increase their amount of tourism from the United States. Would Mexico consider changing their policies on Marijuana specifically?"


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well what we have today - our laws are mixed in the sense that consumption and carrying drugs in your pocket for your own consumption is not considered a crime in Mexico. What is a crime is to distribute, is to sell, is to transport, is to produce drugs. So that's the way the legal situation is in Mexico.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    And are you giving any consideration at all to changing that or not?


    President Vicente Fox:

    No, what we are trying to do is implement - enforcing the law more and more effectively every day and making sure that our justice system also is strong, honest and capable of contributing to all of us in government and different branches of power, to make sure that we reduce consumption and that we reduce production and trafficking of drugs in Mexico and as I said we're attaining results but there is much more needed to be done.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    The next caller on the line is from within Mexico, Ernesto from Guadalajara. Ernesto your question to the President?


    Ernesto:

    Hello Mr President. What can you and I and we all Mexicans do to stop the smuggling of illegal goods into our country, especially those coming from China and all the corruption that's linked to it? I feel this illegal trade translates into the loss of jobs and money, money that goes to the pockets of those involved and we get nothing in return and those products also lack quality. I don't buy them - I discourage people from buying them but what is the real position?


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Ernesto thank you very much. Fighting corruption of course is one of the planks that brought you to power.


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well yes and no. I think that the physical contraband of a container or a truck we have been very successful on a stopping it. On corruption, just one figure here again, we have fired and got rid of about 80% of the whole structure of inspectors in customs on the Mexican side. But what we have here is the strong challenge that China represents in the cost of their products. And it's not that they're coming, most of the contraband, directly from China into Mexico and they're smuggled in illegally.

    What's happening is this triangle situation where that product comes through United States and from there is relabelled or introduced to Mexico as a US export to Mexico. And many times this is documented. So we have to work with US authorities as well as we have to work on our own. Again we have good results these last two years, we have increased considerably the amount of merchandise that we are taking away from this contraband organisations. But this is a serious subject and we're working together with businessmen so that we identify a specifically documented contraband from China that is coming from the United States into Mexico.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    And that of course brings us on to wider issues of trade that I know are extremely important to Mexico as a middle income country, that a lot of other developing countries would hope would use its influence. And we have on the line now Eduardo Zazueta from London on this issue of trade I think.


    Eduardo Zazueta:

    Yes hello. I'm actually from Mexico but I am at the moment living in London. As many people know that the Mexican economy is very linked to that of the United States. My question is, what is your administration doing to open the Mexican market to other countries - in case the United States is in recession - so that it doesn't affect Mexico like it's affecting us at the moment?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Yes today 85% of our exports go to the United States but yes we're trying to diversify. What are we doing is your question. Number one we finalised and agreed upon a trade agreement with the European Union, which has been working for two years and exports to the Union have increased over 20% in this last two years. So we're moving with that agreement.

    We do have trade agreements with different countries in South America. We have it with Chile, we have it with Colombia and Venezuela. We are building one with MERCOSUR so that we can trade with South America. And right now we're negotiating a trade agreement with Japan. I will be going next October to Japan to sign that trade agreement and be able to connect with Asian economies through Japan as well as Japanese investors and corporations to do business through Mexico to go to the North America, the largest market in the world.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    We bring on the line now also I think on the trade issue Philip van der Veeken from Brussels. Your question to President Fox please.


    Philip van der Veeken:

    Thank you for taking my call. I have a question regarding NAFTA, as it surely has been proving a keystone in your economy. Would you as President of Mexico, would you dare to say Mexico will eventually become fully part of the first world because of NAFTA?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well it's been of help, today we are the ninth largest economy worldwide and we have the seventh largest trading balance worldwide. And this is partially due to the NAFTA trade agreement. And yes I can envision that if we have the talent and the vision to further integrate with the United States and Canada as well as to succeed on these trade agreements that I just mentioned that we have with Europe, that we will have as of October with Japan, and that we have with Latin America then I am sure that Mexico will keep on developing and growing.

    Specifically what we're looking for is improving the income of families and people and their quality of life. Mexico today enjoys a per capita income of US $6,250 per citizen per capital which is the largest in Latin America now. But if you compare that with developed nations that are over $30,000 you can see how far we yet have to go. But with hard work and with vision and talent Mexico will be a strong nation in the future.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    We've just got an e-mail from John in the United States who asks: "Has NAFTA been a blessing or a curse for Mexico?" That's something you must be tempted to ask yourself sometimes when, as at the moment, you're engaged in disputes with the United States over their agricultural subsidies.


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well my point of view is that it's been helpful, that it's been successful, and I understand and I respect those who don't see it that way. But what I can say is that every nation I visit in Latin America or South America wishes that they would have a trade agreement with the United States or the desire will be to have the same situation that Mexico has. And if we look at the figures of being the ninth largest economy, the seventh largest trading nation, having a trade balance of over US $350 billion gives you a lot of jobs and gives you a lot of opportunities.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    But are you prepared perhaps to risk a greater confrontation with the United States over their subsidies that I know have irritated many Mexicans, particularly farmers?


    President Vicente Fox:

    Well we don't to have to confront and we don't have a need to do that and we don't have an intention to do that. On the contrary, we're neighbours, we're friends and today we are partners.

    I usually try to remind the United States and to their government that Mexico buys from the United States more than what France, Italy, Spain and Germany does put together. So Mexico is a very strong partner of the United States and we benefit both from this arrangement, from this trade agreement and that's why we both, including Canada, are working to have a vision to the next 10 years of NAFTA, so that we can make it more beneficial to the three of our countries.


    Mike Wooldridge:

    Well that's all we have time for. My thanks to our guest President Vicente Fox and to all of you who've taken part in today's programme from Mexico City. To watch or listen to this or any previous programme you can visit our website at bbcnews.com/talkingpoint. And don't forget you can keep sending your e-mails to talkingpoint@bbc.co.uk. For now, from me, Mike Wooldridge, here at the President's residence and from the rest of the rest of the team goodbye.




  • RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


    PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

    News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
    UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
    Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
    Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific