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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 01:28 GMT 02:28 UK
Fox outlines Mexican vision

By Mike Wooldridge
BBC correspondent in Mexico City

Mexican President Vicente Fox
The Mexican president answered questions from around the world
Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, took a calculated risk when he refused to endorse the American-led war in Iraq.

He came to power in 2000 on the basis of political pledges that, among other things, needed co-operation from the United States.

Antagonising Washington would not make it any easier for him to fulfil one of the main promises - to secure a better deal for Mexicans who cross illegally into the US to seek work.

But there would have been a domestic political risk too if he had supported the Iraq war.

Discussing his dilemma with a series of callers on a special BBC Talking Point programme from Mexico City, President Fox said he sensed that there had not been an overall impact on the relationship with the US.

Secluded complex

He added that this relationship was now "very strong" once again, and acknowledged that this was key to Mexico's fortunes and its foreign policy strategy.

Mr Fox, who headed Coca Cola's operations in Mexico before he became president, took part in Talking Point from his official residence, Los Pinos.

As we travelled there to meet him it was obvious how appropriately named the complex is - set in a pine-clad, secluded area in the heart of Mexico's teeming capital, one of the most densely-populated cities in the world.

His appearance on Talking Point was in many ways a "first".

He took phone calls from Canada to Latvia and responded to e-mails from Chile to Australia.

Boris Forey, from Australia's Gold Coast, asked Mr Fox what incentives, if any, the George Bush administration had offered Mexico to vote in favour of going to war with Iraq.

Mexican President Vicente Fox

He said the US did not offer anything and Mexico would not have accepted if it had, adding that Mexico was "not for sale".

From the US, Mr Fox was asked whether he would challenge President Bush over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

That was the past, he replied. Mexico was now looking at Iraq's reconstruction and its future.

But it was the question of the treatment of Mexican migrants to the US that was particularly high on the agenda for the Talking Point audience.

Hardly surprising, because it is one of Mexico's most pressing issues, and one on which President Fox knows that his watershed presidency - his election brought to an end seven decades of one-party rule - will be judged.

Global trading

He says he wants the US to see Mexican migration as a win-win situation.

The US has an ageing population and Mexicans go there as an energetic workforce.

But there is another blot on the landscape of US-Mexican relations - subsidies for American agricultural products.

They are part of wider issues related to global trading relationships, where the poorest countries look to Mexico to take a lead.

Mexico, as it happens, will be chairing a major World Trade Organisation meeting in September.

Another test for President Fox on the international stage.

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