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Mexico Unveils Short-Term Economic Plan - 2001-10-08

As Mexican President Vicente Fox met with President Bush last Thursday, his chief financial officials back home unveiled a plan to help the nation maintain its economy in spite of the drop in U.S. trade. The measures are short-term in nature based on the hope of an eventual U.S. recovery.

Fox government officials do not call it an emergency plan, but it is clearly aimed at helping the national economy to survive the extraordinary situation created by last month's terrorist actions. Mexico exports 85 percent of its products to the United States and factories south of the border had already begun laying off workers because of the U.S. economic slowdown that preceded the attacks. Now, Mexican cabinet officials say, there is a need to move quickly to shore up various sectors.

Labor Secretary Carlos Abascal Carranza says the basis for the program is the fiscal policy already established by the government.

He says the government will maintain its fiscal and monetary discipline while advancing proposed structural reforms that would reduce the nation's vulnerability. He says the government will also try to stimulate the domestic market and focus on sectors such as tourism that have been hit hard by the drop off in travel resulting from the September attacks.

Meanwhile evidence is mounting that Mexico could be in for a profound weakening of its economy because of the crisis in the United States. Mexican economists say the already troubled manufacturing sector could suffer more as a result of a deep recession in the United States. Many ordinary Mexicans are also awakening to the realization that their economy is closely tied to that of their northern neighbor.

A public opinion poll published in Thursday's Reforma newspaper showed that 60 percent of Mexicans thought the Fox government had been too hesitant in its response to the attacks in the United States. In the same poll, 54 percent rejected the notion that Mexico should distance itself from the United States. But a significant minority, 39 percent, said they thought Mexico should remain neutral in the war on terrorism, even if it meant losing future financial support from the United States.