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Fox: US-Mexican Relations Back on Track - 2003-06-03

Mexican President Vicente Fox says that, in spite of differences over the war in Iraq, he believes relations with the United States are back on track after meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the G-8 summit in France this past weekend. Mr. Fox wants to make an immigration accord with the United States a priority in upcoming meetings between officials from both countries.

The summit in France provided the opportunity for the U.S. and Mexican leaders to meet face-to-face for the first time since before the Iraq war began. Mexico opposed the use of force in Iraq and there was widespread speculation here that the United States might cool its relations with its southern neighbor as a result.

But, in an interview with Mexico's Televisa network, President Fox says his meeting with President Bush went well and that the two countries are moving forward to improve relations. He says the meeting with Mr. Bush was very friendly and affable and he says whatever differences they may have had over the issue of Iraq have now been overcome.

One of the most important issues in the bilateral relationship is immigration and Mr. Fox says that, while it did not come up as a topic of direct conversation in his meeting with President Bush, it remains on the agenda for future encounters.

He says Mexico and the United States have returned to the bilateral agenda. He says they are both ready to address the immigration issue in upcoming meetings between Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He says once there have been advances in those meetings then there will be a formal meeting to develop something concrete.

An immigration accord with the United States has been a top priority for the Fox government for the past two years. Mexico does not produce enough jobs for its burgeoning work force and also benefits from an estimated $10 billion in remittances sent home by immigrants every year. Since the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, however, U.S. officials have concentrated on securing the borders rather than relaxing regulations to allow more Mexican workers to enter the country.

At the G-8 meeting, President Fox pressed for more inclusion of developing nations in future meetings so that issues that affect them can be discussed in a forum that already includes the world's richest nations. Mr. Fox says Mexico will be attending at least the next two summits, although he apparently failed in his attempt to have his country accepted as a full member of the group.