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Blair Makes Historic Visit to Mexico - 2001-08-02

Mexican President Vicente Fox and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held meetings in Mexico City on Thursday to strengthen trade and investment ties between their two nations. It was the first such visit by a British leader to the Latin American nation.

In their meeting at Mexico's National Palace, both Prime Minister Blair and President Fox emphasized the potential for more trade and investment between their two nations. Mr. Blair noted that this was the first visit to Mexico by a sitting British Prime Minister, but he said it would surely not be the last. The British leader said this is an opportune time for Great Britain and the European community to strengthen ties to Mexico and other Latin American nations with dynamic economies.

"Mexico, itself, offers a superb example, perhaps the best example anywhere in the world, of a country that has had the courage to engage in trade arrangements and, as a result, has benefited enormously from them," Mr. Blair said. "My sense, very strongly, is that people recognize that in today's world it is important that we trade. It is important that we have companies that will come and invest here and companies that will come and invest in Europe also and that we gain from this."

Mr. Blair says British entrepreneurs who have invested in Mexico have been happy with their experience and that there are huge opportunities for British business in Mexico.

For his part, President Fox also hailed the benefits of free trade and the strength of the Mexican economy, which he says makes Mexico attractive as a place to invest.

Mr. Fox also addressed the current conflict with the United States over the issue of Mexican truckers, who are blocked from travelling on U.S. roads, beyond the immediate border region. This is in spite of a clause in the North American Free Trade Agreement that would allow trucks from both nations to cross the border freely.

President Fox said said it is a long standing dispute and that he hopes it can be resolved through bilateral discussions. He said Mexico will not take any unilateral action to protest, but that as long as Mexican truckers are not allowed north of the border, no U.S. trucks will be allowed to travel on Mexican roads.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would increase safety requirements for Mexican trucks before they would be allowed to cross the border. President Bush opposes the measure and has threatened to veto it, but the bill's authors say it is a common sense approach to making Mexican trucks meet U.S. safety standards before being allowed on U.S. roads.