Bush to Tighten Ties With Mexico, Canada

Never fond of interrupting his Texas vacation, President Bush is doing it this year to bolster ties with the leaders of Canada and Mexico, two friendly neighbors and vital partners.

Bush to Tighten Ties With Mexico, Canada
Bush joins Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Montebello, Quebec, on Monday in hopes of expanding cooperation among their countries, which enjoy the largest trading partnership in the world.

The two-day North American Leaders' Summit appears to lack a signature issue, except perhaps a new U.S. push to halt Mexico's bloody drug wars.

Instead, the broad theme is economic prosperity, built around several topics: border security, competitiveness with India and China, product safety and energy solutions.

Underlying those points are technical but important matters, such as aligning border-crossing procedures and commercial standards.

"It's not necessarily sexy stuff, but it's essential to our security. It has to be done," said Roger Noriega, Bush's former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. "And it just so happens that Mexico and Canada have renewed themselves with the election of two right-of-center leaders who see the world a lot like Bush does."

The setting will a massive red-cedar chateau on the banks of the Ottawa River. Some nettlesome issues await the leaders.

Bush promised to deliver an overhaul of U.S.-Mexico immigration policy, and now he will be seeing Calderon for the first time since that effort collapsed in Congress. Calderon has made clear he is after more from the U.S. than hundreds of miles of fencing to keep the countries divided.

Harper is frustrated over a U.S. law that tightened passport rules for Canadians visiting the U.S., although Bush has little influence over the matter.

The leaders probably will discuss how best to counter the message of Venezuela's fiery president, Hugo Chavez, who is leading a leftward shift in Latin America. Each has a strategic interest in promoting democracy in the Western Hemisphere, an area of emphasis for Bush before he leaves office in January 2009.

"What's really important is that they continue to reflect the significance of North American integration—the fact that there are post 9/11 problems, but they aren't going to undermine trade and investment," said Charles Doran, a scholar at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

Doran foresees no dominating issue at the summit. "That's a good thing. There's not one thing that's going to preoccupy them," he said.

The meeting comes as the U.S. government is poised to offer a major aid plan to Mexico to fight drug trafficking and violence. Bush may announce part or all the proposal during the summit if the details are completed in time. The effort is expected to help pay for equipment and training.

Calderon has cracked down on drug traffickers and sent soldiers into violence-plagued areas since he won election last year. The effort has earned praise from Bush. Still, many people in Mexico are wary of U.S. intervention, fearing it could threaten their sovereignty. That is a common worry in cross-border efforts.

"I think (Calderon) understands that he can't—and he shouldn't have to—take these guys on all by himself," said Noriega, now a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. "And I think President Bush realizes that whether Calderon succeeds or fails will have a dramatic effect on our security."

The White House is framing expectations in the broadest of language.

Bush spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the president's goal is to make "the continent safer and more prosperous."

Protests are expected, although the resort will be under tight security and access is limited.

This is the third summit of the countries' leaders during the Bush administration. The effort emerged in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks as the U.S., Canada and Mexico sought to figure out how to tighten border security without hampering trade and tourism.

The first meeting, in Texas, launched a partnership in which the countries have tried to harmonize their security and economic programs.

Bush arrives Monday afternoon in Montebello, which is between Ottawa and Montreal.

He will have a private meeting with Harper at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, the summit site. They are expected to talk economic matters, global warming, conflicts in the Middle East and the war in Afghanistan, where Canada has committed troops.

Bush then meets separately with Calderon. Border security and the fair treatment of immigrations are probable topics.

The three leaders plan to have dinner together Monday night.

On Tuesday, the meetings continue, followed by a news conference. Bush then heads to a Republican fundraiser in Minnesota and an overnight stay in Kansas City, Mo., where he will give a speech on Wednesday. He will return later that day to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and resume his vacation.

AP
Last Mod: 19 Ağustos 2007, 11:40
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