Closer relations with Mexico More cooperation: Despite irritations, 11 more accords signed.


WHAT WITH Mexico's recession, its lurid political scandals, its irritations over U.S. treatment of illegal immigrants and U.S. allegations of increased drug money laundering, one might think that the celebrated NAFTA harmony had gone sour. And be wrong.

President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico has plowed ahead with domestic political reform, economic reform and cooperation with the U.S. For the first time since its revolution in 1911, Mexico has extradited two alleged criminals for trial in the U.S. Mexico dropped resistance to international discussion of its human rights record. It began accepting U.S. airlifting of illegal immigrants back to Central Mexico.

Although the Mexican army had for eight decades trained on the basis of opposing invasion from the U.S., this posture turned into military cooperation with the transfer of 20 U.S. helicopters to the Mexican Air Force with 50 or more to follow and training of air crews and soldiers in the U.S. for anti-narcotics missions.

And although the flush first year of the North American Free Trade Agreement was followed by the collapse of the Mexican economy, NAFTA trade has increased by one-fifth. In recession, Mexico remains America's third-biggest trading partner. The U.S. bailout of Mexico's economy is being repaid on schedule, with $3 billion so far, so that Mexico again qualifies for borrowing from international lenders.

The May 6-7 meeting of the Binational Commission, an annual conference of half the cabinets of both countries, had the largest U.S. delegation ever. The conference produced 11 agreements ranging from narcotics to the environment to human rights. They were not all one-way Mexican concessions. Washington promised to notify Mexican authorities whenever a Mexican child or pregnant woman is arrested as an illegal alien.

Irritations remain. The U.S. Senate' immigration reform legislation alarms the Mexicans as encouraging local police brutality. There are bound to be more headlined mishaps in one country of citizens of the other. But this cannot obscure the steady improvement in cooperation and the steely determination of President Zedillo to strengthen the links.

Pub Date: 5/15/96

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