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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 10, 1995
                          AT ARRIVAL CEREMONY
                            The South Lawn

10:19 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President and Mrs. Zedillo, members of the Mexican delegation, distinguished guests. On behalf of the American people, it is my honor to welcome you to the United States as our neighbors, our partners, and our friends.

I know I speak for all Americans when I send my condolences to the victims of yesterday's terrible earthquake in western Mexico, and to their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the people of your nation as the relief effort gets underway.

Mr. President, the bonds between our nations have never been stronger or more important. Over the last decade, and with renewed vitality since you took office, Mexico has embarked upon a course of political and economic transformation.

Openness and participation are the watch words of the future as the people of your great nation take control of shaping their destiny.

Mexico's triumph in this epic endeavor will be America's triumph as well. A prosperous Mexico will be an even great partner in trade, and this means more high-paying jobs for citizens in both our nations.

A strong democratic Mexico will be an even more effective partner in the struggle against drugs and crime and pollution. President Zedillo, the American people are proud to support your efforts. We know we share a stake in your success. That is why, when Mexico fell into financial crisis, the United States answered with action. Not only for the sake of the Mexican people, but also for the sake of thousands of Americans whose jobs depend upon Mexico's well-being.

We saw the threat of economic dislocation all long our 2,000-mile border, and we recognized that trouble next door would spread to other markets all around the world. The United States, with bipartisan backing, assembled a package of international support to help lift the Mexican economy back on track. And, you, President Zedillo, rose to your daunting challenge with courage and determination.

You implemented hard measures to stabilize the economy, while holding to the road of reform. You knew that the costs of your action were high, but the costs of inaction were far greater. You recognized your truly historic responsibilities, and you met them.

We overcame tough challenges by making tough decisions and by standing together and standing firm for the long-term best interests of both our nations. Mexico's early repayment of $700 million serves proof that our actions were proper and that they will be rewarded. The Mexican economy has turned the corner, and the markets have taken notice.

The North American Free Trade Agreement helped to speed the recovery of international confidence. Even during the financial crisis, Mexico kept its NAFTA commitments, lowering its tariffs on American products.

Today, despite the economic downturn, our exports to Mexico exceed their pre-NAFTA levels. And as Mexico's economy regains its strength, not only will your people benefit, but so, too, will tens of thousands of Americans whose well-being also advances when Mexico prospers.

Mr. President, the United States applauds your grace under pressure, your vision for your people and your unflinching resolve. You have coupled far-reaching economic reform with unprecedented progress for democracy, throwing open the doors of political participation and welcoming every Mexican inside.

We salute the Mexican people for their extraordinary perseverance. They have borne tremendous hardship to build a stronger, more prosperous nation. We support your goal of an open, dynamic and democratic Mexico, an inspiration for the region and the entire world.

President and Mrs. Zedillo, we're glad to have you with us again. Welcome to the White House. Welcome back to the United States. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT ZEDILLO: Your Excellency, President William Clinton, President of the United States of America, distinguished Mrs. Hillary Clinton, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of my wife, the Mexican delegation, and myself, I want to thank you for your warm welcome.

On behalf of the Mexican people, I thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words of concern and solidarity; the towns affected by yesterday's earthquake are being assisted along the Pacific Coast.

I come to the United States of America convinced that this state visit will be a step further toward strengthening our ties of cooperation as friends and neighbors. I come to Washington to meet with a President who has shown clear signs of friendship and respect for Mexico.

I come to the White House to openly and constructively discuss the main issues on our bilateral agenda. These issues prove that today our relationship is not only more dynamic and complex, it is also stronger and more promising.

President Clinton and his administration have been clearly receptive of Mexico's principles and interests. And this has allowed us to build a respectful and ongoing dialogue between our two nations. We reciprocate with our determination to jointly address the issues of concern to the United States within the scope of our bilateral relations.

Our border is extensive, and its communities have an intense, economic, social and cultural life. It is a border where more than 300 million legal crossings take place every year. We are determined to work, so people living along that border can enjoy a clean and safe environment, the right infrastructure for a more demanding and competitive world, and the opportunity to make the most of their productive potential. Mexico is also fully determined to intensify the cooperation efforts to tackle the problems of illegal migration and trafficking of individuals.

In no way do we intend to limit law enforcement in other countries, nor would we advocate for illegality. But we will always defend respect for basic human rights and individual dignity. We are convinced that the only definitive answer is sound and lasting economic development that will translate into opportunities of progress and well-being. We want to export products and share opportunities of prosperity, not lose the energy and talent of Mexicans so greatly needed in our nation.

With honesty and deep concern, we acknowledge that drug-trafficking poses a grave common threat. For Mexico, drug-trafficking is the most serious threat to our national security, to public health, especially of our youth, to our national security and to our family values. Drug-trafficking also brings with it a terrible source of violence and corruption.

Thus, we are determined to use every resource at our disposal to fight tirelessly against the evil of illegal drugs. We trust that every country will fulfill its own responsibilities in this struggle, and we are encouraged by the fact that both our nations have pledged to expand their cooperation, always with full respect for each other's sovereignty.

I am certain that in this state visit, we will make substantial progress and will increase the understanding on each one of these issues. My optimism is based on the progress made over the years. We are already building new relations founded on respect and on the recognition of the vitality and the cultural diversity of our peoples; new relations aimed at ordering and giving certainty to the many ties between countries. Today, our new relations have enabled the North American Free Trade Agreement to be a reality in our economies. They also offer a broad horizon of opportunities for our societies.

Even in this difficult year for the Mexican economy, our U.S. imports will have increased fourfold in comparison to a decade ago. Furthermore, this year, U.S. imports will be even greater than before NAFTA was passed. In the face of the grave December crisis, our new relations have also made financial support possible.

President Clinton, the international leadership, vision and courage you have displayed prevented the crisis from becoming a systemic problem of world scope. By doing so, you also supported a sister nation in quickly implementing the appropriate process for economic adjustment.

For Mexico, 1995 has been a year of great economic difficulties. However, today I can assure you that thanks to the adjustment program, to the support of our friends and trade partners, especially the United States, and above all, thanks to the firmness and work of all our Mexicans, we are turning the corner. Through our efforts and determination, we are establishing sound foundations so that next year we will have an evident and sustained economic recovery.

I firmly believe that soon this recovery will result in more jobs, greater income and new opportunities for all Mexicans, as well as increasing exchanges with our trade partners. I am fully confident that we are going to achieve our growth goal because throughout history, the Mexican people have risen to the challenges and proven that we are capable of great achievements.

Here in the United States, every day, men and women of Mexican descent, or Mexican Americans, prove they can successfully face the challenge of living in a hard-working and demanding nation. They are loyal people who are counting on you, Mr. President, and who also appreciate the fact that you have always acknowledged their capabilities, their participation, and their culture.

We, as Mexicans, are especially proud of our roots and identity, of our history and our culture. We are a nation of people who take our inspiration from the past to look ahead and demand more of the future. I come to the United States backed by the pride of my people, as well as with the certainty of the Mexican government, that we will strengthen our friendship and advance toward progress that will benefit both our nations.

Mexico and the United States are not, and should never be, isolated from each other. They are, and should continue to be, joined by broader paths and stronger bridges of understanding, always respectful of our respective national sovereignties.

I am certain that during this visit, we shall make progress in building new understanding. Based on that new understanding, we shall build an exemplary relations between loyal neighbors, sincere friends, and prosperous trade partners.

I thank you, President Clinton, and all of you for your hospitality and this warm welcome. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 10:48 A.M. EDT