- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

Susan Ferriss of Cox News Service interviewed Mexican President Vicente Fox, 63, on Nov. 8 in Mexico City. Here are excerpts:

Question: You were attacked quite a bit for defending the idea of the Free Trade Area of the Americas at the Summit of the Americas this month. Why do you continue to defend free trade so much?

Answer: I don’t want to talk about the summit.

We’ve been one of the great beneficiaries of free trade. We have more free-trade treaties than any other country in the world, with 42 countries. Agreements like [the North American Free Trade Agreement] … have been very successful.

That’s why Mexico has [a total import-export trade figure] of $400 billion, the seventh largest in the world. That creates a lot of jobs, jobs of high quality that are well paid. Our economy has grown because of these accords. So given these hard facts, I am a defender of free trade because I think it’s the best way to fight poverty, unemployment and to increase per capita income.

Q: Despite these accords, unemployment and poverty continue to be a big problem in Mexico. There are a half-million Mexicans a year emigrating, many of them as illegal immigrants, to the United States.

A: If my explanation isn’t enough for you, I’ll give you another: China.

China is becoming one of the most open economies in the world. China belongs to the World Trade Organization. Who can question the success of China? And who can question that international trade has been the reason for China’s growth?

China has lots of poor people, just like Mexico. But that doesn’t mean that poverty can’t be defeated through trade and investment.

Q: You’ve always had high hopes that an immigration agreement would be part of economic integration with the United States. Who and what does that depend on now?

A: I have to keep working with the Congress in the United States and with governors. It’s a theme that has been in the works for many years. It’s a theme that has been in the works for a century. I don’t get despondent. I don’t lose hope. I maintain my conviction that we will advance and resolve this.

Q: We know this issue faded after September 11, 2001. Is there anything you think you should have done differently after September 11 to advance Mexico’s agenda?

A: No, I don’t think there is more to do than what we’ve done. We’ve been very candid and we’ve worked in our administration on this. President Bush’s administration has worked on this. It’s a very complex issue that requires more work.

Q: Your government began with some great success early on by capturing some big-name drug traffickers. Lately, there has been criticism that Mexico isn’t doing enough about drug smuggling. Do you think the drug war is winnable?

A: I don’t know who’s doing the criticizing. But with all due respect, it’s a battle that we are winning. It’s a battle in which we now have the majority of the bosses of the cartels in prison … I’m not saying everything is resolved, but we’re advancing down the right road.

Q: What has been your greatest disappointment related to the reforms you’ve proposed that haven’t been accepted in the [Mexican] Congress?

A: I’m not disappointed. This life is for fighters. This life is for optimists and hard workers. I fight every day for those reforms. They are sitting there, stuck in the Congress, reforms that have to do with taxes, energy, pensions and labor.

Don’t forget that my government is a minority government. I don’t have a majority in the Congress. If the Congress hasn’t wanted to approve these reforms that the Mexican people want and that this government wants, then the Congress will have to assume responsibility for that.

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