August 24, 2000
MARGARET WARNER: Early last month, reform candidate Vicente Fox stunned Mexico and the world by winning the presidency of his country. Promising economic and political change, the former Coca-Cola executive and his National Action Party ousted the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, that had ruled Mexico for 71 years.
PEOPLE SHOUTING: Viva Fox!
MARGARET WARNER: Fox won't take office until December 1, but he's been trying to use the transition time to advance and promote his ideas. Today, he was in Washington meeting with Vice President Gore, then with President Clinton, to explain the three big changes he wants to see in the U.S.-Mexico relationship: Fully open borders between the two countries; $20 billion a year in new U.S. development aid for Mexico's economy; and an end to the U.S. policy of certifying Mexico's commitment to the drug war. Fox is scheduled to meet with Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush tomorrow.
|A conversation with Vicente Fox|
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks for joining us, Mr. Fox.
VICENTE FOX: A pleasure. Thank you for inviting us.
MARGARET WARNER: These are some pretty big ideas you've laid out on the table for changing the U.S.-Mexico relationship. What kind of openness have you found here in Washington to those ideas?
VICENTE FOX: Well, it's always better, big ideas than small ideas. And I think it's also better to think long term, to think holistic, and to walk step by step until you meet your objectives. And so this is what we've been putting on the table for discussion. We know that we have a lot of short-term problems in our relationship, but we must build up a future long term. What are these ideas - one is that we have to narrow the gap on development; we are never going to be the best friends and best neighbors and best partners if we don't narrow that gap where we have huge differences on income in Mexico compared to income in the United States or Canada, so the first idea is to narrow that gap. Number two is to work through a convergence program, economic program, whereby we are narrowing the differences on inflation, on interest rates, on other variables of the economy and development. And number three, that we approach each of the problems individually but at the same time connected to the holistic view.
MARGARET WARNER: The biggest idea - or let's just say the most provocative idea - as it's been reported here - is this notion that the US and Mexico should have a completely open border. Now explain what you're thinking of there, how soon you would expect this to happen and why.
VICENTE FOX: Well, again, long term, one idea of NAFTA trade agreements is that you compete between each other, of the countries that join in that trade agreement. The idea of a community as a partnership where we join forces, where you complement your economies and you work together for a common purpose. So moving in that direction would certainly make all three of us - Canada, the United States and Mexico - stronger. So, yes, I'm talking about a community of North America, an integrated agreement of Canada and United States and Mexico in the long term, twenty, thirty, forty years from now. And this means that some of the steps we can take is, for instance, to agree that in five years we will make this convergence on economic variables, that maybe in ten years we can open up that border when we have reduced the gap on salaries and income and so on.
MARGARET WARNER: It seems, looking at that proposal, though - I mean, NAFTA is really predicated on the idea of moving goods and investment and services but that people stay in their own countries to do the work. And, of course, a totally open border you would have Mexicans living and working here and vice versa. How does that - how does that square with your idea of building up the Mexican economy?
VICENTE FOX: Well, I see more and more Americans coming to work to Mexico, and they get their visa, and they get in without any problem. And we enjoy having them there and we enrich from having them there more - more and more every day tens of thousands now. I know that this does not compare with the amount of people that comes here to the United States. There we have the challenge, we Mexicans have, to hold them in Mexico through opportunities. This is why we have to generate the number of jobs that we need for them in their community, the number of schools, specifically universities and technical schools, so that they stay there. This is what we have to do, we Mexicans, but if we can do it associated, working together, we will do it much faster.
MARGARET WARNER: But in reading about your proposals, it sounds as if you are advocating shorter than twenty or thirty years, for instance, that American businesses could hire Mexican workers to come to the states to work legally. I mean, why would you want to do that and how soon?
|The migration problem|
VICENTE FOX: Well, let me use an example, and maybe we can explain better. Twenty-five years ago Spaniards used to go to work illegally to Germany, England, and France, and they worked a holistic approach and long-term process, and today they don't have the migration problem anymore. Why? Because Spaniards have in their own country opportunities, good wages, and they don't have to go out. This is basically again a challenge that we have in Mexico, but if we can work it out together, for instance, reinforcing, reinventing, the NAD Bank - the North American Development Bank - that could be a tool for development, and, of course, we are not going to open the borders before we have reached those levels of integration, those levels of equity -- as long as we don't narrow this gap, no way that the border should be open. That's not what we're proposing.
MARGARET WARNER: I see. Now, this development bank, it is to that development bank that you'd like the US to make a major annual contribution, is that right?
VICENTE FOX: No, we're willing to do it too, as Mexico.
MARGARET WARNER: You as well?
VICENTE FOX: Yeah. Maybe we should contribute - the three of us - Canada, United States and Mexico - according to the proportion of the size of our economies, and use those funds for development anywhere. It could be used for these corridors or highways that should be able to connect Canada, United States and Mexico, or it could be used to build up jobs in rural communities in Mexico, or to attack ecological and environmental problems that we all have in the border. So it could be used anywhere, but it's specifically to promote development and narrow this gap that we have today.
MARGARET WARNER: Just to put this in perspective, $20 billion a year, that's nearly double the US foreign aid budget for the whole world. I mean, what would you say if you were an American, a new American president who wanted to sell that to this country, why that's in Americans' self interest?
VICENTE FOX: It doesn't have to be fiscal funds; it doesn't have to be aid. We're not asking for aid. We're asking to build up together funds to finance development. So those funds -
MARGARET WARNER: So more like an IMF? More like an IMF?
VICENTE FOX: Oh, yes, specific for our purpose of developing the North American territory, which is NAFTA territory, yes.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, finally your other big idea that's been out there has to do with the way the US and Mexico fight the drug war. And you want to end this unilateral certification process by which the US certifies whether or not Mexico or other countries are fighting the good fight. What's wrong with that, and what would you put in its place?
VICENTE FOX: Well, the only thing that is wrong is serving no purpose. I mean, the problem has not been resolved. Consumption of drug increases in the United States; traffic of drug increases in Mexico; production of drug increases in United States and Mexico and Colombia. So let's substitute that mechanism for one creative idea that works for everybody. And my suggestion is let's build up a multilateral agreement joining in countries that produce the traffic and that consume - countries that money launder funds coming from drugs, and let's put together one strategy with coordinated effort, and let's meet this challenge of the organized international crime to be able to defeat them on their same arena, because I don't think that any country by itself can do the job. The United States by itself cannot solve the problem if we don't get the cooperation of Mexico, Colombia, and the same happens with us in Mexico. We have the same problem. We need, for instance, the United States to reduce consumption because all these billions of dollars coming out of this market are used to corrupt Mexican policemen or Mexican functionaries, so we must work with obligations, each one of us, so that we can supervise, we can have common objectives, and make sure that we defeat organized crime.
MARGARET WARNER: Did you get - first of all, how specific did you get in your conversations with President Clinton and Vice President Gore on these specific proposals, and did you get any kind of commitment to at least pursue one or more of them?
|Meeting with Clinton|
VICENTE FOX: Well, it was not a meeting for the purpose of agreements or negotiations. I'm just president-elect; President Clinton will finish his term in two months. So we explore ideas; we interchange those ideas. For instance, we're talking about micro credit; both of us were enthusiastically working on this because he visited Bangladesh; he knows about the system. Mrs. Clinton is pushing this micro credit system. We have them in Guanajuato, and when we talked about small, medium-sized businesses, about the system they follow in Italy, in northern Italy, which they have mastered the nourishment of entrepreneurship in small companies, then all of these ideas are exactly what we need to bring them opportunities within NAFTA and make sure that we narrow this gap.
MARGARET WARNER: It sounds as if, in addition to these specific ideas, you really want a whole new kind of attitude or atmosphere in the relationship between our two countries.
VICENTE FOX: Well, we have an excellent relationship, but it can do much better yet. I want to be creative. I want to bring in new ideas, big ideas, long-term ideas, and specifically I think that we need a holistic approach, that we put all these pieces together to make an orderly plan, so that we gain the battle against poverty in Mexico -- so that we defeat the problem of migration and so that we gain the battle against narco traffic.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that the relationship to date has been too one sided or too much the United States calling the tune?
VICENTE FOX: No. It's okay, the relationship. It's just a matter of - it's been ten years working. NAFTA is doing excellent, but now we have to look at the next ten-year term and see where we're going, what do we want to accomplish, and specifically enhance, reinforce and make more dynamic the processes of development in our three countries.
MARGARET WARNER: You have met - I know you're meeting with Governor Bush tomorrow but you've met with him before when you were both governors of states, and you met with Vice President Gore today. Who do you think of the two is more - will be sort of a better friend to Mexico and will be more open to your ideas?
VICENTE FOX: Well, both wear western boots. I wear western boots.
MARGARET WARNER: As you do.
VICENTE FOX: The same. No, I think that today the conscience in America, in the United States, about the relationship with Mexico and Latin America is on both parties -Democrats and Republicans - and I think that the idea here is to build up a common future, and I'm sure we can work that future with either one.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, President-elect Fox, thanks so much for being with us.
VICENTE FOX: Thank you. A pleasure.