The President’s News Conference With President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico in Mexico City

Spoken by

William J. Clinton

President Zedillo. President Clinton, ladies and gentlemen from the media from the United States and from Mexico, once again I would like to express the satisfaction of my government and the people of Mexico for the visit of President Clinton. We are truly very pleased that President Clinton is beginning his tour here in Latin America, starting in Mexico. We are also especially pleased by the results of the work of the Mexico-U.S. Binational Commission and by the agreement that will be materialized today.

President Clinton and I have heard the report of the trade relations between Mexico and the United States. It is very encouraging that from the beginning of NAFTA, our trade has increased over 60 percent and now accounts for close to 150 billion U.S. dollars per year. And this represents, above all, more and improved economic opportunities and more and improved jobs for Mexicans as well as for U.S. citizens.

This is very encouraging in intensifying our efforts in order to reach agreements in the fields that are still pending. This effort has also encouraged us to reaffirm the commitment to NAFTA and to work so that at the summit meeting in Chile next year we will provide an important impulse to a creation of free trade in the American Continent.

The Mexican Government is very pleased with the agreements we have reached in order to promote educational, scientific, and cultural exchanges, as well as to protect the environment and nature, particularly along the border area, our common border. These agreements prove that we are united by interest in the conditions in which our communities live, the conditions of the health and the safety of the families.

We are particularly satisfied that President Clinton and I will be signing the Declaration of the Mexican-U.S. Alliance Against Drugs. Our alliance will be based on mutual trust and on our commitment as heads of state that the collaboration between our countries will progress in keeping with fundamental principles. These principles include the absolute respect of sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction of Mexico and of the United States; shared responsibility in facing the problem of illegal drugs and related crimes such as money laundering and weapons trafficking; a comprehensive fight against drugs, attaching the same priority to all aspects of the problem; balance and reciprocity in actions, programs, and guidelines to take on the threat of drugs in both countries; and effective law enforcement in both nations.

Based on these principles and based on the joint assessments we received today—President Clinton and I both received this—Mexico and the United States now has a shared vision of the magnitude of the problem, and we share the will to combat the problem with all of the resources within our reach.

The declaration we will be signing contains specific objectives. We have given instructions to our Governments to prepare a common strategy in order to follow through with the objectives and to prepare plans for reciprocal implementation. A particularly pleasing aspect is that the declaration includes the intention to work together, jointly, in order to have a hemispheric agreement against illegal trafficking of weapons, and also an agreement for the extraordinary U.N. assembly on drugs next year.

The Mexican Government appreciates the sensitivity of President Clinton in terms of the Mexicans’ rights and the dignity of Mexicans in his country. Thus, it is very pleasing that today we will also sign a joint declaration on migration. For the past 2 years, our Governments have made important progress in dealing bilaterally with issues such as consular protection and the human rights of migrants as well as the efforts to combat trafficking in human beings. Today we have reaffirmed the commitment of both Governments to strengthen bilateral cooperation in order to deal with the migration phenomenon.

We have agreed to base our work on three basic principles: One, the sovereign right of every nation to apply its migration laws however it deems most appropriate for its national interests, always in keeping with international law and in a spirit of bilateral cooperation; the second principle is that of absolute compliance with the objectives of the memorandum of understanding on consular protection of Mexicans in the United States, which was signed almost one year ago, particularly in the respect of human rights of migrants; and the third principle is to deal with the migration phenomenon in a comprehensive view which is mutually beneficial and will make it possible to conserve family unity and to protect the dignity of human beings.

Based on these principles, this establishes the commitments of our Government to protect the rights of migrants and to promote the procurement of justice for migrants as well as the respect of due legal process in the application or the enforcement of migration laws. There is also a shared commitment to ensure safe repatriation and orderly repatriation of migrants and apply new measures to reduce violence along the border and to combat trafficking in human beings and falsification of documents. In order to ensure a comprehensive view on migration, we will examine scientific analysis which will be the result of binational cooperation.

This reflects the cooperation and the good will of our Governments to create a border whose communities are joined by friendship and cooperation, not by conflict. We want appropriate, just, and harmonious development. The visit of President Clinton and the agreements signed and to be signed are a firm step in our relationship of friendship, respect, and cooperation which will benefit both Mexico and the United States.

Once again I would like to thank President Clinton for his visit and also ask him to address you at this time, before we take the questions from our friends from the media.

President Clinton. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. To all the members of the Mexican Government here and our hosts, the members of the American delegation, the members of the Cabinet administration, and the Members of Congress. This is my first trip to Mexico as President, my fifth occasion to be in your country in my lifetime, and I’m very pleased to be back. As you know, I had planned to be here a month ago, but I literally got a bad break and couldn’t come. So I’m very happy that we’re able to consummate this trip today.

As President Zedillo has said just a short while ago, we heard the reports of the United States-Mexico Binational Commission, a remarkable Cabinet-level group that oversees the dayto-day interaction of our Governments. The presentations demonstrate vividly the remarkable depth and breadth of our relationship. No two countries are working together on more important issues, with a more direct effect on the lives of their people, than Mexico and the United States.

The reports demonstrate that, for the most part, we do agree on the opportunities and the problems before us. And in a few moments, the President and I will sign joint declarations on drugs and migration. They demonstrate that, more than in the past, we also agree on solutions and that we are prepared to carry forward our cooperation to a higher level.

We share more than a 2,000-mile border and, more importantly, we also share a vision of what the border should be in the 21st century: a safe, clean, efficient model of prosperity and cooperation joining our people, not a barrier that divides them.

The joint declaration on migration makes clear that we both see our border as a dynamic living space with complex problems, to be sure, and real opportunities, both of which require a comprehensive approach. The declaration commits both our Governments to improve how we manage the border. We will ensure that the human rights of all migrants are respected, regardless of their status; expand public information campaigns warning migrants of dangerous crossings; reduce violence and criminality at the border; and combat the terrible practice of alien smuggling.

The issue of immigration raises passions on both sides of our border. I’m proud of our tradition of generous legal immigration. I will do everything I can to preserve it. I deeply believe that America’s diversity is our greatest source of strength for the future. There is no more powerful proof of that than the remarkable contributions Mexican-Americans have made to our country in every walk of life and to my administration.

But to maintain safe and orderly immigration and to do justice by the hundreds of thousands of people who legally immigrate to the United States every year, we must take effective action to stop illegal immigration. Our new immigration law will help us to do that. In applying the law and in our overall approach to immigration, we must balance control with common sense and compassion.

I am very pleased that the balanced budget agreement I reached with our Congress last week restores certain benefits to some legal immigrants. I will continue to work with Congress to correct some aspects of the immigration law. We will ensure respect for human rights and seek to apply the law humanely, with special concern for children and for families. There will be no mass deportations and no discrimination. But I am also determined to help our southern neighbors make the most of their rich economic and social potential, because, ultimately, that’s the best way to give people the confidence they need to make their futures at home.

President Zedillo and I will also sign a joint alliance against drugs. With this alliance, we recognize the dangers we both face, the responsibilities we both share. Illegal narcotics are not simply a Mexican problem—far from it—but neither are they simply an American problem. They are our common problem, and we must find a common solution.

The alliance takes our already unprecedented cooperation to a new level. It respects the laws and sovereignty of our countries, while committing us to 15 concrete goals, to put in place a shared strategy by the end of this year. We’ve agreed to intensify our work on money-laundering investigations, to increase our cooperation on extraditions, to facilitate trials on both sides of the border, to apply profits seized from drug traffickers directly to law enforcement purposes, and to step up our fight against gun-running, including a hemispheric agreement outlawing the trafficking in illegal arms.

These two declarations prove that we can work through our problems in ways that work for both of us. But this relationship is about far more than resolving our problems. It’s about seizing the real opportunities to make our people more prosperous and more secure on the edge of a new century. That’s what we did with NAFTA, which has helped to raise our exports to Mexico to an all-time high and helped Mexico to bounce back from a wrenching recession that caused great hardship to people here.

Now, as President Zedillo and I agreed, we must push forward on NAFTA’s promise to help us clean up the environment, especially along the border, and to improve working conditions and safeguard worker rights on both sides of the border.

I’m especially pleased with the new steps we have taken to protect the environment and to promote education. The United States will provide $170 million in Environmental Protection Agency funds for border water projects. We will work with Mexico to attract private sector investments in pollution prevention. We will work to preserve endangered species and natural forests.

We have also agreed to expand the Fulbright scholarship program, a favorite one of mine because it was named for my mentor and one of the most outstanding people ever to come from my home State. This will double the number of Fulbright scholars for Mexicans studying in the United States, with a special focus on science and technology.

Our partnership with Mexico for opportunity, security, and prosperity is fundamental to the future of both our peoples. Today we have strengthened that partnership. Our prospects for shaping that future for the children are brighter, and I feel very, very good about what we have done and quite optimistic about what we will do in the days and years ahead.

Thank you, Mr. President.

[At this point, President Clinton and President Zedillo signed the Joint Statement on Migration Adopted by the President of the United States and the President of Mexico, and the Declaration of Mexican and United States Alliance Against Drugs.]

Upcoming Elections in Mexico

Q. I would like to address my question to President Clinton. President Clinton, are you concerned by the elections which will take place here in Mexico next June, and particularly, can you imagine a Congress in Mexico without a PRI majority?

President Clinton. I’m actually more concerned about the American Congress. [Laughter] Let me say, I applaud the movement toward political reform and electoral reform in Mexico just as I have applauded and supported the movement toward economic reform.

The judgments in the election are for the Mexican people to make and for all the rest of us who support democracy and freedom and human rights to support. I welcome the fact that so many observers have been invited here to watch it take place, and I respect President Zedillo for supporting this process.

Mexico’s Social Policies

Q. President Zedillo and President Clinton, a U.N. report out last month, just last month, said that the extensive focus on free-market economic reforms by themselves have failed to lift much of Latin America, including Mexico, out of poverty—the population out of poverty—and it suggests that more attention needs to be spent on social spending as at least a complementary action.

I’m wondering if you agree with that assessment, if you feel that maybe your extensive focus on free-market reforms need to be balanced in any degree, and if you can offer any kind of prediction on how many years into the future it will be before the countries of Latin America and Mexico specifically reach the level of society-wide economic prosperity, that issues that you’ve been dealing with such as immigration and drug-trafficking largely dry up on their own or begin to dry up on their own.

Thank you.

President Zedillo. Thank you very much. I will let others talk about the situation of other sister nations in Latin America, and I’ll refer to the case of Mexico. One of the reasons why we Mexicans have been reinforcing our economic structure—and this has taken place for just over 10 years—is precisely being able to have a material base which arises from vigorous and sustained economic growth so as to be able to support more ambitious social policies which will make it possible to more effectively combat poverty and inequality, which are the problems that our nation is suffering from.

I think it’s very important to underscore the fact that many social problems, many of the problems of inequality and poverty in Mexico today—and I think that there are other countries of Latin America suffering them as well— their basic source is found in government policies which in past decades stressed government control over economic processes too much. The long period of stagnation in our economy cannot be tied to nor should it be tied in any way to the processes of economic liberalization— quite the contrary.

I think that thanks to these policies of opening up towards foreign countries and the internal liberalization of our economies and also adjusting the size of the Mexican Government, as far as the control of the economy is concerned, means that we will now be able to open up a period of sustained growth, dynamic growth which will make it possible for us to expand the reach, the objectives, the sense, and the results of our social policies.

Extradition Treaty

Q. President Clinton, are you familiar with a list of Mexicans that are extraditable, and would you be willing to review the extradition treaty?

President Zedillo, does this new relationship imply a new concept of sovereignty?

President Clinton. Well, let me say that we have enjoyed an unprecedented amount of cooperation related to common criminal and drug problems in a way designed to strengthen our sovereignty, not to undermine it. So we have worked with Mexico in grievous cases on extraditions, and I appreciate that, just as we are trying to work with Mexico in providing helicopters to support eradication, or computer technology to help Mexico work with us on money laundering, or working on the preventive aspects of the narcotics problem. So I believe that extradition partnerships that are fair, equal, and balanced reinforce a nation’s sovereignty; they don’t weaken it. And it’s an important part of our long-term strategy to work together on the drug issue.

Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Whitewater Investigation

Q. Mr. President, I’d like to ask you about a question back in the United States. The Whitewater prosecutors assert that Mrs. Clinton’s testimony on several issues has changed over time or differs from that of other witnesses. Do you have any idea of what the discrepancies might be? And what does this suggest to you about the course of the investigation? Is it becoming more troublesome for Mrs. Clinton?

President Clinton. No and no.

Q. Why is that, sir?

President Clinton. Well, you’ve been watching it for years. If you don’t know, I can’t help you.

North American Free Trade Agreement

Q. President, 4 years after NAFTA was signed, are the terms fully enforced, or do you believe that it is necessary to carry out any changes, amendments, or are some of the clauses obsolete?

Thank you.

President Zedillo. I believe that the North American Free Trade Agreement has performed very clearly in keeping with the objectives that the three countries participating in the agreement had decided on. And proof of this are the figures of the three countries, the trade figures of the three countries. Just a moment ago I mentioned that in bilateral trade alone between the United States and Mexico during NAFTA trade has grown over 60 percent; that is, almost close to 70 percent. And that is despite the fact that in 1995 in our country we had an economic recession.

Thus, I believe that the terms under which NAFTA was negotiated were very good terms. And I think that within the agreement we have very clear and transparent mechanisms to deal with any kind of dispute, and I believe that at this time there is no significant reason from the Mexican perspective to review the contents of NAFTA.

If you’ll allow me, because just a moment ago one question went unanswered, the second part of—[inaudible]—question. I would merely like to say that under no circumstances does this new understanding based on respect between Mexico and the United States—in no way does it mean that the concept of sovereignty has changed; on the contrary. It is very pleasing for me as a President and as a representative of the people of Mexico that in a document which we just signed, that President Clinton and I just signed, respecting this alliance against drugs, the first principle which we mutually recognize is—and I will read it—is “the absolute respect for the sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction of both Mexico and the United States of America.”

Wreath Laying Ceremony and Whitewater Investigation

Q. Mr. President, as has been discussed a great deal in the last 2 days, the two nations have a long history together and sensitivities have grown up as a result of involvement with one another, including involvement during war. Later today, you will be laying a wreath at the tomb of Mexican cadets who were actually boys at the time that they died at the hands of American troops. This is one of those issues in which the Mexicans have been very sensitive. These boys are heroes and are seen basically as children who died in war.

My question is, are you going there and laying that wreath in any way as a gesture of apology or atonement for action by the U.S. military?

President Clinton. I’m going there as a gesture of respect, not only respect for their lives but respect for the patriotism and the integrity of the people who have served this country.

President Truman went there as well when he was here, and it’s my understanding that no one has gone since. But I think other heads of states regularly go there, and I do not believe the President of the United States should decline to go because of what happened between our two countries a long time ago.

You know, we are trying to heal the wounds of war with nations with whom we fought even more recently. I’m sending Pete Peterson, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over 6 years, to Vietnam as the new Ambassador. It seems to me that if the United States wants to lead the world in the direction we say we do, then it is imperative for us to respect our friends and neighbors especially, in countries around the world, and honor their symbols of national honor. And I’m proud to be able to do this.

Let me just say, since the President clarified an answer he gave, let me say to Mr. Hunt I did not mean to be flippant. What I meant to say was I know of no factual discrepancy, period. I am unaware of one. But if you took the four of you sitting there together on the front row and got you all together again 13 to 19 years later and asked you precisely what happened on this day, you might have slightly different memories. I have no idea that there is any such discrepancy, but I have no reason to be concerned about it whatever. We’ve both done our best to answer all the questions that were asked of us, and already tens of millions of dollars have been spent on this, and I am just perfectly comfortable with where we are.

Immigration Law

Q. President Clinton, the question is regarding what you just mentioned, that is that you would be working with your Congress on some aspects of the migration law. What aspects would these be, and how would they benefit our citizens in the United States?

President Clinton. Well, let me just say, first of all, we’ve cleared a big hurdle, I think, in the budget agreement, dealing with the eligibility of legal immigrants for public assistance when, through no fault of their own, they’re put into some distress. And then there are a number of other issues which have been raised about the administration of this law and the extent to which it might prompt, in a way that Congress never really intended, the virtual permanent breakup of families, especially the people who maybe had visas even there to come into the country in the first place.

So I’m working with Congress on it. But I hope you will understand when I tell you that since this is such a terrifically emotional issue, until we have a clear approach and I understand who is on what side here, the more I say about it, I might be endangering my chances to succeed. I think we all know what the most significant potential problems of the law are. I still support its fundamental traditions. I support— I’m glad I—I would sign the law again tomorrow if I had to because it gives us the ability to control our borders better, to get illegal immigrants out of the workplace, and to take illegal immigrants who come into the criminal justice system and remove them quicker. So I think that’s all to the good.

I’m concerned about undue family breakup and disqualifying people who may not deserve it virtually permanently from applying for citizenship.

Mexico-U.S. Antidrug Efforts

Q. A question for both men. Have you resolved the issue of whether American drug agents operating in Mexico can carry sidearms for their own protection? And if you have, given the level of trust—or distrust—between our two countries, such that it takes a Presidential meeting to resolve an issue like that, why should anyone believe that the United States and Mexico would be able to cooperate, exchange highly sensitive intelligence information on drug trafficking or drug smuggling, or is the talk of cooperation just that—talk?

President Zedillo. If you will allow me, in the declaration that we’ve just signed, that President Clinton and I have just signed, it is very clear on two aspects. The first aspect, having to do with the principles—and I referred to them a moment ago, but I will refer to them again—and that is the absolute respect for the sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction of both Mexico and the United States.

And the other aspect, which is very important for the Mexican Government and is expressed as one of the specific tasks to be undertaken by both Governments, and it reads, literally, “The Governments will do whatever necessary to ensure the protection of the officials in charge of enforcing the law.” And this naturally is on both sides of the border, applicable for both sides of the border.

This principle and this recommendation which we’ve made to our Governments must be translated into practical measures which obviously are in keeping with both of the previously mentioned principles. I have already answered this question, the question that you’ve put me, in the past, and I can assure you that we will comply both with the principles that both Governments have agreed to, as well as with the objective of providing these people with safety.

Naturally, it would not be appropriate for us to refer to the specific mechanisms with which, within the principle for the respective sovereignty, we will be protecting these law enforcement agents. I am sure that President Clinton nor myself would ever make public the details which might jeopardize the safety of these people. Yet our commitment in both areas is very clear.

President Clinton. This is in response to the second half of your question. You said, why should anyone believe that we can work together? And let’s be frank here among friends. On the American side the problems are, we have less than 5 percent of the world’s population, and we consume about half the drugs. And we’re more than happy every year, American citizens, to give billions of dollars that winds up in the hands of narcotraffickers. That’s our big problem. Our second problem is that while we are increasing our capacity to deal with it, we have not succeeded in reducing the demand or completely controlling the border on our side.

Now, the Mexican problem is that narcotraffickers can destroy the fabric of civil society. They can undermine the integrity of any society. And they go after places with open spaces and a vulnerability to organized money and violence. And so they also have to worry about corruption, as anyone would targeted with that kind of money.

But you say, how can we rely on them to cooperate? Let me talk about some facts that we never—that we under-report. And I don’t mean that as a criticism; I mean we do, too, we in public life. We now have 202 cooperative money-laundering ventures going now; 54 of them are complete, joint investigations. Last year, 200 law enforcement officers in Mexico lost their lives in the line of duty—200. And extraditions, seizures, prosecutions, and eradications are all up in the last year.

So I believe that this Government is trying to work with us. And I believe that the chances of our succeeding in dealing with our problems, and the chances of their succeeding in dealing with their problems are dramatically heightened if we work together and be honest about our problems but also not deny good-faith efforts when they exist. All those 200 people had families that grieved for them. They laid down their lives trying to fight—roll back the narcotraffickers, roll back corruption, roll back crime. And it seems to me that their lives alone are evidence that we ought to be working to cooperate.

President Zedillo. In view of the time constraints, we will take one last question.

Q. Thank you. Good afternoon. President Zedillo, in view of the magnitude of the fight against drug trafficking, is it possible that Mexico will accept the $6 million in cash offered by the United States to combat drugs as an additional resource to combat drug trafficking?

And President Clinton, how did your view or your vision of Mexico change when you arrived here after your meeting with President Zedillo, and particularly, what was your concept after having visited the Museum of Anthropology?

Thank you.

President Zedillo. In terms of the principle of mutual respect and cooperation that the United States of America and Mexico have developed in fighting drug trafficking, there have been different occasions on which we have received material support for this struggle, which is a struggle that we all participate in.

I am not informed of the details of the resources that you’ve mentioned. I am sure that within the context of the agreement that we have reached we will examine in all detail this offer, and in keeping with the principles and objectives that I’ve mentioned we will reach a decision in this regard.

Mexico-U.S. Relations and President’s Visit to Museum of Anthropology

President Clinton. Let me briefly say that I don’t know that my view of our relationship has changed since I got here yesterday afternoon, but I have been reinforced in my conviction that we can make progress on all these fronts as long as we do it in a genuine atmosphere of mutual respect, and as long as we’re completely honest about our differences and willing to work hard to overcome them, and we tell the people the facts about the progress we are making and the problems we have. So I feel very much reassured.

And in terms of going to the Anthropological Museum, I haven’t been there since the 1970’s. I was a young man in a different line of work back then. And I think the President can tell you that I think I kept him about an hour longer than I was supposed to, and I would probably still be there if it were up to me. But I hope the Mexican people are very proud of that because it shows, even to an outsider like me, the remarkable cultures which were the foundation of modern Mexico. And it certainly gave me a deeper appreciation for the richness and depth of this country’s history and the incredible talents and gifts of its people.

President Zedillo. Muchas gracias.

President Clinton. One more—equal time? [Laughter]

Mexico-U.S. Antidrug Efforts

Q. Mr. President, you mentioned the responsibilities that the United States bears for the international drug problem because of the massive demand in the United States. Can you give us some of your ideas of new efforts that you might have to help to combat this big demand?

The President. First of all, let me say, I have—we could talk all day about this, and I have to be brief. But the first thing I would urge you to do is to never forget the plan that General McCaffrey has filed now, because General McCaffrey is a military man and when he files a plan, that’s his mission, and he intends to follow it. And if you look at our budget and if you look at our priorities, we’re trying to implement it.

But let me just mention two points, if I might. Number one, we are trying, with the work of the Attorneys General of the two countries and our drug operations, to intensify our cooperation with Mexico and to work more effectively with other countries to prevent drugs at their source or in transit. Number two, we are focusing on our young people. We know that we have— and we thank God for it—we know we’ve had a big decline in drug use among people between the ages of 18 and 34. So now we have to focus on the young. And that means more education, more testing, more treatment. And it means that we have to have a comprehensive juvenile justice youth development program in every community in the United States.

That’s one of the reasons I strongly supported the Summit of Service in Philadelphia, because I believe if they really want to do the things that we all said we wanted to do, there will have to be a community-based initiative that the Federal Government supports in every community to keep our kids alive and keep them off drugs.

So we have to do our part. And I’m firmly committed to doing it.

Thank you.

President Zedillo. Muchas gracias.