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 Home > News & Policies > September 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 6, 2001

Presidents Bush, Fox Discuss State Visit
Remarks by President George Bush and President Vicente Fox of Mexico Upon Departure
The South Lawn

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12:30 P.M. EDT

           PRESIDENT BUSH:  Thank you very much.  The President and I are about to get on Marine One, and then Air Force One, and fly to Toledo, Ohio.  I look forward to a joint appearance in the heartland of America. We're going to have a great day in Toledo.

     We had a great day here yesterday as well.  Not only did we have a successful state dinner last night, but we had a series of meetings that confirmed our close relationship and built on our trust.  As I said, Mexico is an incredibly important part of the United States' foreign policy.  It is our most important relationship, because Mexico is our neighbor, and neighbors must work together.  And we do.

     We're confronting a series of opportunities and issues.  Over the past hours, we discussed the importance of NAFTA, not only between Canada and Mexico and the United States, but free trade throughout the hemisphere.

     We discussed a variety of issues that relate to trade.  Trucking is an issue about which we had a long discussion.  Mexican trucks ought to be moving in the United States; I call upon Congress to take that provision out of the appropriations bill, otherwise I will veto the bill.

     We talked about some commodity issues that we have faced.  We had an issue on avocados, for example.  For those of you avocado lovers, you'll be pleased to hear that we've solved that problem, and I believe the President is pleased with the progress we're making.

     When we trade as much as we do, there are going to be issues that inevitably arise.  And we will deal with those with mutual respect and honest discourse.

     Secondly, I'm pleased to report that we've made great progress in cooperation in fighting crime.  The President told me yesterday about some additional criminals who have been arrested in Mexico.  This is a crime-fighting president; he is dedicated to working with our law enforcement officials to interdict drugs and guns, and coyotes on the border.  And Mr. President, I appreciate your effort.

     Our Congress ought to change the decertification process that, to me, sends the wrong signal to our friends to the south.  To have an annual certification process really, I don't think is fair to Mexico, and I think it's counterproductive, and I hope they change the law on decertification.

     And finally, an area that has gained a lot of interest, because it's an important issue, of course, is the issue of migration.  We've had a lot of frank discussions on migration.  We share a lot of principles.  One, that we both recognize how important the contribution to our economy the Mexican workers have made; that we want people treated with respect; that we both have a mutual and shared responsibility to make sure our border is safe, and that we enforce the border; that I hope to come forward with a program that will pass the Congress, that deals with guest workers with some sense of normalization.  And I would like to do that as soon as possible.

     There's obviously a sense of urgency in the President's message.  I hear that sense of urgency, and my administration is willing to work as hard as we possibly can to get something done in a constructive fashion.

     Mr. President, I think this is a continuation on the road for trust, respect, and cooperation.  And I want to thank you very much for your coming here.  I appreciate so very much you bringing your beautiful wife. I look forward to our trip to Toledo, and then our dinner tonight at the Blair House with the President.

     Mr. President?

     PRESIDENT FOX:  Okay, I will not have much more to add on this summary of what great has been these two days to us Mexicans, and to us in Mexico. The trust factor, no doubt that is key.  And these two days have been a great opportunity to advance in our conversations, in our frank speaking -- all of this aimed at increasing that trust

     And for the rest, I'm fully recognized and totally honored on the warm reception we have had, on the opportunity, extended opportunity, to discuss and dialogue on different issues and matters with President Bush.  And so to me, if I would describe this, it's a process -- a process that started back in Mexico in our first formal meeting, a process that has continued on an everyday basis by our working teams.  And this I would call a station, one first station which has been this state visit to the United States, where we had the opportunity to review the issues, to advance on each of the issues, and to keep on the commitment to work hard for the coming months and the coming years.

     So that's totally satisfactory to us.  I really thank the American people for the warm welcome we have had, and specifically from Mr. Bush and his lovely wife, the attentions we have had are just something that we -- over-exceeded any expectations that we would have had.

     Q    Mr. President, even with this sense of urgency on immigration, tell me how difficult it will be to get a deal in the next year.  And when you do give legal status to undocumented immigrants, how will you justify that action to the millions of Mexicans still waiting in line for legal entry, and the millions more people who are living in this country now after plowing through the legal process?

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Right.  Ron, you've just identified one of the complexities of the migration issue.  I explained this to President Fox, that there are many in our country who are undocumented.  And we want to make sure that their labor is legal.  And so part of the issue is how do we match a willing employer with a willing employee, to recognize the value of the work, and to legalize that part of the process?  And that's where we need to think creatively on a guest worker program.

     I mean, the truth of the matter is that if somebody is willing to do jobs others in America aren't willing to do, we ought to welcome that person to the country, and we ought to make that a legal part of our economy.  We ought not to penalize an employer who's trying to get a job done who hires somebody who's willing to do that kind of work.

     So that's part of the complexity.  The second half of your question really does point out another problem that we have to work through.  And that is there are -- one of the things I have told the President is I am willing to consider ways for a guest worker to earn a green card status. And yet I fully recognize there are a lot of people who have stood in line, who have said, I'll abide by the laws of the United States.  And we're trying to work through a formula that will not penalize the person who's chosen the legal route, and at the same time recognizes the contribution that the undocumented has made.

     That is part of the reason I say this is an incredibly complex issue. It is complex to the point where my administration is going to spend a lot of time on resolving that type of question.  But to make matters even more complicated, we've got to work with the Congress, and we've got to come up with a solution that Congress can accept.

     Now, I fully understand President Fox's desire for us to expedite our -- to come up with a solution quickly, to expedite the process.  And we're going to do that.  I think one of the useful parts of this visit is for me to be able to sit down face to face and to talk about why this is a complex issue within the country.  That's precisely part of the issue.

     Q    You don't sound like you can get it done in four months, though.

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, he's asked that we do it within the year.  One thing he will find is that we will put 100 percent effort into it during the year.  And I hope we can come up with a solution; I want to accommodate my friend.

     He's got a very important role to play, and that is as a spokesman for Mexican nationals living in this country, as someone who is deeply concerned about their future, their lives.  And I completely understand that, and I can assure the President and the people of Mexico, we have heard his call.  He is a strong, forceful leader, and we will do everything we can to come up with a solution to this complex problem.

     Q    Mr. President, along those same lines --

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Him?  Which President?  (Laughter.)

     Q    President Bush, I'm sorry.

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Here we go again, six to nothing.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Sir, could you be more specific as to whether or not, among the set of issues, or the set of values or principles that you share on immigration, you share specifically the goal of finishing this negotiation by the end of the year?  And --

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  I share the idea of working as hard as we possibly can.  Listen, we came -- the President came to Washington -- I'm sorry to interrupt you.

     Q    Well, I'm sorry.  I just wanted to say --

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Actually, I'm not sorry to interrupt you.  I did it -- it's an old trick here.  (Laughter.)

     Q    I just wanted to ask you if -- what would the United States want to see in return.  Something --

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  In return?

     Q    In return for this negotiation, and for maybe regularizing a number of Mexican illegals, Mexican immigrants in the United States.

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  Well, I think -- first of all, I think that -- I don't think we ought to view this issue necessarily as a quid pro quo issue.  This is an issue that we must confront regardless of a Mexican response.  This is an employment issue in the United States.

     We've got employers who can't find workers and therefore, then, employ undocumented workers.  And under our law that's illegal.  And it seems like to me we ought to have a direct and honest assessment of reality. But we are getting what we wanted from Mexico regardless of the details of this particular issue, and that is strong cooperation.  That's all we can ask.

     And the President has been very forward-leaning in working with us on a variety of matters, including better border enforcement and making sure we find those coyotes who are gathering illegals or undocumented folks and trying to run them into our country for profit.  I can't think of anything worse.  And yet, this administration and this government and our governments are cooperating very closely on ferreting out those people who are willing to prey on innocent hard-working people, and stop that kind of activity.  That's the kind of cooperation we expect and we're getting.

     Q    Mr. President, why are you abandoning the Clinton Administration's attempt to break up Microsoft?  Will this help consumers? And did you sign-off on this decision?

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  He's asking about a legal matter, Mr. President.

     During the course of the campaign and throughout my administration, I have made it abundantly clear that on issues relating to lawsuits, on-going lawsuits, that I expect the Justice Department to handle that in a way that -- in a way that brings honor and thought to the process.  I respect and hold our Attorney General in high esteem and I honor the work he's done. And I'm going to leave it at that.

     Q    You're satisfied with the decision?

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  I am satisfied with the fact that John Ashcroft is doing a fine job as the Attorney General.

     Q    (Asked in Spanish.)

     PRESIDENT FOX:  (Answered in Spanish.)

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  For those of you who don't speak Spanish, he said, "President Bush's tax cut came right at the right time."  (Laughter.)

     Q    Mr. President, on that same rough subject, when you met with Republican leaders this morning, did you promise them, as they describe it, that no -- that every dime of Social Security will be protected?  Does that mean you will not sign any bills that even temporarily take from it?  And President Fox is welcome to take a swing at that, too.

     PRESIDENT BUSH:  He probably doesn't want to.  I told the Republican leaders, like I told Mr. Daschle and I will tell Mr. Gephardt tomorrow, we can work together to avoid dipping into Social Security.  I have repeatedly said the only time to use Social Security money is in times of war, times of recession, or times of severe emergency.  And I mean that.  I mean that.

     I think it is best for me to start working in a cooperative fashion with the members of Congress, start by saying let's work together to make sure that our budgets don't cause us to dip into Social Security.  And of course I've always got the ultimate way to make sure we bring fiscal sanity into Washington.  That's what we call a veto, Mr. President.

     But rather than come from the negative perspective, my attitude as we begin the fall session is to say we can work together, let's do so.

     I will repeat to the American people, there is ample money coming into our government to fund our priorities.  And what we need is fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.  The tax cut that we passed was a very important move to make sure our economy begins to gather momentum and grow.

     The President knows what I know:  when our economy is ill or slow or not meeting expectations, it affects our neighborhood.  He's getting blamed for something that's taking place in America, and that's not fair.  And so our tax relief plan is part of an economic growth package.

     I urge the Congress to pass an energy package.  That's a job creation package.  That's part of economic growth.  I urge the Congress to pass trade promotion authority.  If people are interested in growing our economy, so that there are more jobs available, then they ought to not only herald the tax relief plan, they ought to be thinking about how to pass an energy package and a trade promotion authority package as well.  That's important for growth.  We ought to be thinking, in Washington, D.C., how to grow the economy.

     Now, I realize, Mr. President, sometimes there are second-guessers in the political process, and there are some in Washington who appear to be second-guessing the tax relief plan.  My guess is, is that they probably want to raise taxes.  If they're against relief, the fundamental question is what they're for.  And I suspect, if they're against one thing, they must be for raising taxes.  And my argument to them is that would hurt the economy.

     The best way for us to continue economic growth is to have a pro-growth plan in place, and have fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C.  I look forward to working with the members of both parties to insist upon and implement a package that is fiscally disciplined.  And we can do that, and I'm confident we can do that.

     Q    (Asked in Spanish.)

     PRESIDENT FOX:  (Answered in Spanish.)

     Q    (Asked in Spanish.)

     PRESIDENT FOX:  (Answered in Spanish.)

     Q    President Fox, I'd like you to talk about trucking?  Trucking? The trucking issue?

     PRESIDENT FOX:  (Answered in Spanish.)

     MR. FLEISCHER:  This way, Mr. President.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Thank you.

                           END                  12:53 P.M. EDT