WASHINGTON – Mexican President Felipe Calderón expressed optimism about Mexico’s economic progress,its fight against narco-trafficking and organized crime,and U.S.-Mexico trade relations during his visit to Washington on Thursday.
“In terms of the border,both President Obama and I agree that we must turn this area into a land of opportunities and not conflict,” Calderón said at a joint press conference with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Calderón said the bilateral committee the two executives created last year has agreed to a plan of action to create “a 21st century border” and prevent violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obama said he and Calderón discussed strengthening security on both sides of the border to stop the flow of drugs to the north and weapons to the south without slowing trade or commerce.
“It’s a challenging task,” Obama said. “We have a big border. We have a lot of people going back and forth. It’s very important economically. But it is something that we have to continue to work on.”
The two executives announced they have reached an agreement on international trucking that would allow Mexican trucks to operate in the United States. Obama said the proposed agreement will strengthen safety,expand exports to Mexico and create jobs on both sides of the border. Mexico is the second-largest importer of U.S. goods,which Obama pointed out provides a million American jobs.
Congress will have to ratify the agreement.
Later,at a public forum at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center,Calderón said that,while he is committed to his current policy in Mexico’s war against organized crime,there is a need for “co-responsibility” by local authorities.
“The worst case we have in Mexico is Ciudad Juarez,in terms of violence,” Calderón said.
He said he has kept federal police in Juarez,and,“They are regaining control step by step.”
His administration has also used an aggressive social policy,building new schools and university campuses as well as providing health care to residents of the city,which had more than 3,000 murders in 2010. The Mexican government is building five new high schools and three new university campuses in Juarez,Calderón said. But he said local governments need to build their own schools and police forces.
Turning to the immigration of Mexicans to the U.S.,Calderón said,“We are losing,in each migrant,our best people.”
He said both the U.S. and Mexico need to recognize that immigration is a fact that has “been going on for as long as the United States and Mexico have existed.” Both countries,Calderón said,should work together to create a system that allows immigration to happen “in a natural way.”
“The current North American immigration system has become a bottleneck to growth and prosperity in the region,” Calderón said. “Sooner or later we will need an immigration reform. And sooner is better than later.”