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US, Canada, Mexico Agree to Forge Closer Ties

President Bush held meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox in Texas Wednesday and announced the beginning of a new North American partnership.

In a joint statement released after their formal meeting on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, the three leaders announced the creation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. This new initiative is aimed at strengthening continental security and promoting economic growth, competitiveness and improvements in the quality of life for the citizens of all three nations.

President Bush says the trilateral meeting in Waco was only the beginning of the process of creating this new partnership.

“We got a lot to do, so we charged our cabinet ministers with the task of figuring how best to keep this relationship, these relationships, vibrant and strong,” said Mr. Bush. “I appreciate the commitment of the prime minister and the president toward a spirit of partnership to outlast whatever politics may occur.”

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin says the new initiative will enhance and strengthen the ties that already exist through the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We represent three sovereign nations that have formed one of the most successful partnerships in the world,” said Mr. Martin. “That being said, we also recognize that we cannot be complacent. The world is not standing still. New economic powerhouses such as China and India are rising and we face new opportunities, but we also face new challenges.”

For his part, Mexican President Vicente Fox stresses that improvements in security should go hand in hand with economic development.

“We face new threats that carry a risk for our societies, but we also want to work for the good performance of our economies,” said Mr. Fox.

The three leaders called for the development of two working groups, one on security and the other on prosperity, made up of officials from all three nations, to develop concrete proposals and a schedule for future actions within 90 days.

Baylor University Political Science Professor Victor Hinojosa says the plan launched by the three North American leaders in Waco is a bold and ambitious attempt to shape the destiny of the entire continent.

“I think this was a remarkable outline of a really broad agenda,” he said. “To hear President Bush and Fox and Prime Minister Martin tell their cabinet ministers that they had 90 days to make concrete this agenda, President Fox said to put it in black and white, I am glad I am not one of those ministers, because they outlined a really broad agenda.”

In addition, President Bush says he would like to see the model of cooperation in North America extended to other nations in the western hemisphere through the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas. That proposal, however, has been hampered by Brazil and other South American nations seeking to enhance their own regional accords.