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Bush Travels to El Salvador to Discuss Trade - 2002-03-24

President Bush travels to El Salvador Sunday to meet with Central American leaders about expanding trade. It is the last stop on his four-day trip to Central and South America.

President Bush will meet separately with Salvadoran leader Francisco Flores before a broader summit with Central American leaders from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said Mr. Bush will focus on increasing trade in the region as part of his new approach to U.S. development assistance which will reward countries that carry out economic and political reforms.

Ms. Rice said bringing Central American economies closer to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which links the United States, Mexico, and Canada, will improve trade inside and outside the region. "The Central Americans believe that the free trade agreement that they will sign with us will also help them to open their markets to each other," she said. "So you will need governments that will encourage entrepreneurship, that will allow small business to flourish."

Church leaders in El Salvador are asking for amnesty for citizens living in the United States illegally. U.S. officials say they will consider that request as part of broader immigration reform but say this visit will focus primarily on increasing trade.