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UN Conference to End Poverty Opens in Mexico - 2002-03-18

A U.N. conference aimed at finding ways to end world poverty opened Monday in Monterrey, Mexico. The main events will occur later in the week when President Bush and more than 40 other world leaders come together to discuss development aid.

The object of the conference in Monterrey is to develop a global strategy for stamping out poverty. The draft document that has emerged encourages industrialized nations to spend at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product on development aid for poor nations. The document also expresses support for an expansion of world trade as a road to development.

Mexican President Vicente Fox will formally open the summit portion of the conference on Thursday. In recent statements, he has called the meeting in Monterrey an opportunity for reaching consensus on various development issues.

He says that since the terrorist attacks of September 11 last year, there is a new spirit of cooperation between rich and poor nations to advance development in the world and combat poverty in the best way possible.

Mr. Fox is among the developing nation leaders who favor the expansion of trade as a spur to development. What many of these leaders want more than development aid is more of an opening to markets in industrialized nations.

The setting for the conference, Monterrey, could serve as a model for what free trade can do. It is Mexico's most prosperous city and the center for much of its industrial development. Such internationally successful companies as cement producer Cemex and glass-maker Vitro are based there.

The northern Mexican city of about three million inhabitants also has the highest standard of living in Mexico, and wages four or five times the $4 an hour minimum urban wage found in the rest of the country.

Later in the week, President Bush will attend the conference in Monterrey, and will also hold private meetings with President Fox and other heads of state. Last week, Mr. Bush proposed a $5 billion increase in U.S. foreign aid over the next three years, as what he called a sign of the U.S. commitment to worldwide development.