- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2000

OTTAWA Mexico's President-elect Vicente Fox yesterday began a road test of his vision of open borders and a common market in North America, arriving in Canada on his first journey north since his election last month.

Mr. Fox, whose victory ended 71 years of one-party rule by the PRI, or Institutional Revolutionary Party, won't take office until Dec. 1. But the first day of his trip to Canada and the United States had the look of a presidential visit, with Mexican and Canadian flags fluttering above the red carpet at the airport in Ottawa.

As Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy welcomed Mr. Fox, a crowd of about 50 well-wishers waved and shouted greetings from behind barriers a few yards away.

He headed for a meeting with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and also was to spend a few minutes with Stockwell Day, leader of the opposition Canadian Alliance.

Today, Mr. Fox has scheduled talks with business and social leaders before leaving for a two-day swing through the United States. There, he will attend rallies with Mexican-Americans and meet with President Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush.

For decades, Mexican leaders have followed the lead of U.S. policy, but Mr. Fox already has made public his vision of an expanded North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that would help Mexico become an equal partner with Canada and the United States.

He wants a relationship similar to the European Union, with open borders and a common market. To do that, he says, Mexico needs help from its more powerful northern neighbors who would benefit from a more prosperous ally to the south.

Mr. Fox was expected to get a lot of smiles, but few commitments. But Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based policy institute Inter-American Dialogue, said the fact he even suggests change should be cause for optimism in the United States.

The Mexican president-elect also veered from the policy of his predecessors by acknowledging Mexico had to try to help reduce illegal immigration to the United States, a major issue for Washington. In the past, Mexican leaders have said the problem mostly was a U.S. concern.

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