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Remarks on Receiving the Binational Commission Report in Mexico City

May 06, 1997

Well, thank you very much. Members of the Mexican Cabinet and the American Cabinet, thank you for your reports and for the specific concrete efforts that you are making to move our relationship forward and to help our peoples.

Secretary Albright commented that the work of the Binational Commission was so broad because our relationship is so broad. This is a truly extraordinary thing to have this many people in our Cabinet, this many people in your Cabinet all working together on a broad range of issues.

Let me say, Mr. President, as you know, I'm particularly gratified also to be joined here by strong bipartisan delegations from the United States Congress that are here from many States along the border, as well as Governor Miller of Nevada, the chairman of the Governors' association in the United States. So we're here because we know that we have to make this relationship work together beyond party politics, within our countries and across our borders.

In the 21st century, we want our border to be our bond, and we want it to be rooted in a mutual commitment to the exchange of people and commerce across the border and to our fidelity to the rule of law. The reports we have heard today are fully consistent with that objective.

With regard to narcotics, I was very impressed by the drug threat assessment done jointly; by the proposal for an alliance, and I think the word is well taken—it must be an alliance undertaken in good faith and mutual respect; by the news that the alliance will actually articulate a strategy and specific tactics for implementing the objectives of the alliance by the end of the year.

For our part, we in the United States know that we have to reduce our demand, and General McCaffrey will tell you we've presented the largest counternarcotics budget ever, but we also think we're doing more of the right things. The Attorney General is working very hard to pass the right kind of juvenile justice legislation. And as perhaps many of you in Mexico know, we have been quite successful in reducing drug use among people whom we thought were the biggest problem, young Americans aged 18 to 34. Drug use in our country is going up among Americans even younger, under 18. So we are devoting an enormous amount of time and effort to that problem, and we hope we can show progress on our side.

I am confident, from the efforts which have been made and the statements which were made to me by the President earlier, that Mexico is equally committed to making progress on this side of the border.

With regard to the migration report, I think it strikes the right balance. The Attorney General has explained what we are trying to do in the United States on this issue. I think we all know we have a deep stake in making the border crossings work, and we in the United States, in our Government, have no interest in causing any unfair or undue harm to immigrants in our country. We are a nation of immigrants. We have been deeply enriched by them. They have made us the fifth largest Hispanic country in the world, with 22 million Americans now of Hispanic descent. But we know that we also have to enforce the integrity of our immigration laws at the border, in the workplace, in the criminal justice system, and we are attempting to strike the right balance.

As regard to the other issues, let me just say very briefly, I welcome the specific announcement on clean wastewater. We are trying to show our good faith by committing more funds to the environmental projects. We are concerned that the joint commission has approved something like 16 projects, of which only 4 have been approved for financing by the North American Development Bank, and we're committed to doing something about that.

I'm especially pleased by the educational exchange comments and the commitment to increased educational exchange. I think that is very important. I'm very pleased that there will be a report back to us within 90 days from the relevant Cabinet officers on what we can do more to implement the labor and environmental accords.

And finally, let me say, Mr. President, I'm glad to see that our Cabinet members are reaffirming the fact that NAFTA has worked. There are some people, still, who assert in the United States that it has not, but it has. If you compare what has happened in the last 3 years with what happened the last time Mexico had some economic distress, you see that American exports have fared much better, and the Mexican economy has come back much quicker and much stronger, and NAFTA is clearly partly responsible for that. So I'm glad to see that our Cabinet members are hanging in there and trying to get the evidence out because I think it's clear that we did the right thing.

No one issue defines this relationship. The scope of it presents us with unique challenges and opportunities. It's vital that we work together, but I feel much better about our shared future because of the work that our Cabinet ministers are doing in this unprecedented forum. And I thank them for it, and I thank you for hosting us today.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 11:30 a.m. in the Lopez Mateos Room at Los Pinos Presidential Palace. In his remarks, he referred to President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Gov. Bob Miller of Nevada, chairman, National Governor's Association.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on Receiving the Binational Commission Report in Mexico City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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