Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by the Mexican Newspaper Notimex
February 10, 1988
At the beginning of your administration, some of your officials considered Mexico as the next Iran. Six years later Mexico is still there, and
after some rocky times, the relations are considered very good
on both sides of the border. One year before the end of your term, what is your
actual assessment of the bilateral relations, and what is still to be done?
The President. ``Mexico as the next Iran'' was a phrase used briefly
by one former official. It was never the judgment of my administration. I think
it's true to say that relations between the United States and Mexico today are strong and
productive. In the past 5 years, working pragmatically on the many problems we
jointly face, we've reached mutually beneficial agreements on trade and
investment; cooperated closely to help Mexico manage its foreign debt
burden; and addressed unique issues of immigration, energy, and the environment
along our common border.
past few months, in particular, have seen an unprecedented number of new
agreements reached between our two countries. In November we signed a bilateral
framework understanding on trade and investment, which in conjunction with the
GATT process will help us to reduce barriers to trade and investment between
our countries. In early December we signed a mutual legal assistance treaty,
which will assist both countries in combating a wide variety of criminal
activity ranging from drug cartels to white collar criminals. Also, in December
the United States was pleased to play a
role in the Government of Mexico's plan to exchange debt for new bonds. In
addition, we have recently signed agreements on steel, beer, wine, and
distilled spirits, and we are close to concluding a major new civil aviation
agreement. And at the end of the February 13 meeting in Mazatlan, we will sign a new
4-year textile accord and a telecommunication agreement.
De la Madrid and I have worked to
place U.S.-Mexican relations on a new path. Much work remains to be done. In
the time we have left in office, we must build on the progress we've made so
that we can turn over to our successors a better relationship. It must be
equipped to manage the growing ties between our two peoples and deal with the
problems we both face. We must continue to work closely to combat narcotics
trafficking and the other common maladies that hinder our ability to cooperate
even more closely.
In your last State of the Union Address, you said that trade will be the
foremost concern of your February meeting with President Miguel De la Madrid. For years you've
sponsored a proposal for a North American common market, but given the economic
disparities between the two countries, how could Mexico be an equal partner
with the United States? From your position,
which would be the Mexican role and/or advantage in such an economic alliance?
Could you be more explicit on the idea of a North American agreement of
The President. We are seeing the beginnings
of an historic restructuring of the Mexican economy, of Mexico's trade relationships
with the United States, specifically, and the
world, in general. In recent years, under the leadership of President De la Madrid, Mexico has undertaken a number
of important steps. As I mentioned already, Mexico has acceded to the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and signed with the United States last November a
bilateral framework understanding on trade and investment.
recently signed framework understanding is a symbol of the special relationship
which exists between our two nations as well as a recognition that both
countries will gain from the continued liberalization of bilateral trade and
investment flows. My February 13 meeting with President De la Madrid will serve to affirm
and build upon this progress. Through the framework process, as through the
multilateral trade negotiations taking place in the GATT, both of our
governments are committed to working toward the progressive reduction of
barriers to trade and investment. We see these steps as providing a solid
foundation on which to build towards freer flows of trade and investment of
benefit to both our nations.
Two years ago, Secretary [of the Treasury] James Baker proposed a plan to help
heavily indebted countries to resume growth to avoid defaults. Yet 2 years
later, growth has not resumed, and the debt problem is one of the main
weaknesses of the international economy. There are, however, some signs of
progress, like the U.S. backed Mexican
bond-for-debt swap. Is the United States prepared or willing to
go further in these or other kinds of measures?
The President. The program for
sustained growth proposed by Secretary Baker in October 1985 is a dynamic
program for encouraging the adoption of policies which experience in many
countries has shown lead to sustained growth. The program recognizes the need
for new loans from development banks and commercial banks in support of these
reforms. Recently the program has been expanded through the menu approach to
include a variety of financial instruments, such as debt-equity swaps, bonds,
and trade credits, in addition to general balance-of-payment loans as options
in commercial bank financing packages.
welcome the innovative proposal developed by the Government of Mexico to allow
foreign creditors to exchange their loans at a discount for long-term bonds
issued by Mexico. The voluntary
debt-bond swap program designed by Mexico is consistent with our
efforts to encourage market-oriented solutions to the problems of developing
countries. Our policy recognizes that each country is unique and must work with
its creditors to devise the solutions most appropriate to its economic and
economic policy reforms begun by President De la Madrid have helped put Mexico in a position to work
out mutually beneficial agreements with its creditors. His farsighted efforts
to open up the Mexican economy and revitalize domestic industries are helping
place Mexico on the path of
sustained economic growth. We remain ready to assist Mexico's continuing and
creative efforts to manage its external debt.
Nuclear Test Ban
The United States and the Soviet Union are on the beginning of
the long path to nuclear disarmament. The Group of Six has offered to help
monitor the nuclear test ban. Would you accept such help, since the real
conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union seems to be in terms of
the so-called low-intensity conflict?
The President. The United States shares the desire of
the Group of Six for concrete arms control measures. We and the Soviets have
agreed that a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing must be linked to an
effective disarmament process which must include the elimination of nuclear
weapons. Our immediate priority in the area of nuclear testing limitations is
reaching an agreement on essential verification improvements to the Threshold
Test Ban Treaty (TTBT) and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty (PNET).
treaties are bilateral, and our verification concerns with them are of a
bilateral nature. We believe that bilateral discussions will best serve
progress in this area. If the Soviet Union agrees to essential
verification procedures, I will request Senate advice and consent to
ratification of these treaties. Once the treaties are ratified, the United States will immediately
propose negotiations on ways to implement a step-by-step parallel program -- in
association with a proposal to reduce and ultimately eliminate all nuclear
weapons -- of limiting and ultimately ending nuclear tests.
American Peace Process
Your administration seems to have identified the Central American peace plan as
directed only to Nicaragua and the demise of the
Sandinista regime. But it is not so, and the democratization of Nicaragua means not only national
dialog and a cease-fire but elections that the Sandinistas could win. In any
case, it is likely that they will remain as an important political force in Nicaragua. Is the United States disposed to accept this
outcome? Could you explain the U.S. plans in Central America beyond the Nicaragua solution, whatever it
The President. Nicaragua under the Sandinista
regime is out of step with the rest of Central America, which has moved
decisively toward democracy in the last decade. Simply put, attention has
focused on Nicaraguan compliance, because Nicaragua has the farthest to go
in meeting its commitments under the peace plan.
Guatemalans, and Hondurans are moving toward the sort of stable, popular system
that has served their Costa Rican neighbors so well. In 1979 Nicaraguans
overthrew Somoza with similar hopes for their country, but the Sandinistas
hijacked the revolution for their own purposes and dashed the hopes of the many
democratic forces that helped bring down Somoza. In doing so, they imposed on
the people of Nicaragua an alien ideology and
the totalitarian controls associated with Soviet-style regimes, which also
threaten their neighbors. This is what led to the creation of a national
resistance and, ultimately, civil war.
the Central American peace plan, Nicaragua's neighbors have given
the Sandinistas a clear message: Democratize, because until a democratic Nicaragua takes control of its
own future, its problems will continue to be the problems of the entire region.
Nicaragua's key problem is not
just a matter of words or particular elections, it is
a matter of unilateral monopoly of power in a closed society. One day Daniel
Ortega says he won't give up power in an election; the next day he says he
will. Incidentally, in the last few weeks other Sandinista comandantes
have tried to explain why they don't have to abide by free elections. What all
this means is that Central Americans can't settle for promises. They did that
once and are paying the price today. Nicaragua's democratic neighbors
agree with us that Sandinista compliance with the regional peace accord will
make or break the plan.
asked whether the United States could live with the
Sandinistas being a political force in Nicaragua. That's not up to us;
that's a decision the Nicaraguan people must be allowed to make for themselves.
Democracy and development are at the heart of our policy there. The monopoly
ambitions of the Sandinista front are only a temporary obstacle standing
between Central Americans and the freedom and prosperity they so desperately
want and deserve.
Note: The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on February 12. One
of the questions referred to the Group of Six, which consisted of India, Sweden, Argentina, Mexico, Tanzania, and Greece. Its principal aims were peace and nuclear disarmament.