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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Binational Commission Opening Plenary
Mexico City, Mexico, May 5, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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As Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Foreign Minister, distinguished colleagues from Mexico and the United States, I am delighted to be here to participate in the 14th meeting of the Binational Commission. And I am very grateful for the warm hospitality we have received. I note that this is the second consecutive year that the Foreign Minister has hosted this meeting, so I look doubly forward to playing the role of hostess next year.
Fifty years ago, President Harry Truman and President Miguel Aleman jointly declared in this city that it is the common purpose of our two countries to live together in harmony and to work together for prosperity on both sides of the border. We meet today to re-state that purpose, and to continue the work of this Binational Commission, which was forged in its spirit.
Our agenda is broad because U.S.-Mexican relations are broad. Our border is long; our people visit each other, study with each other, work with each other, conduct business with each other and influence each other every day.
Although some have sought to characterize our relationship based on one or two issues, neither our interests, nor reality allow that. Our friendship has a multitude of branches, and in tending them, we must never allow the many blossoms to be obscured by the scattered thorns. The U.S. delegation is eager and prepared to work with you to strengthen areas of cooperation and to solve or minimize problems. As we all recognize, the true value of the Binational Commission is found not in the warmth of our rhetoric, but in the substance of our agreements. The bridges we build are real.
For example, this year, we will be opening new markets in agricultural products on both sides of the border, lowering barriers to the communications industry and--through NAFTA--soliciting new proposals to accelerate tariff reductions. We anticipate progress in environmental cooperation and other matters that directly affect quality of life in border communities. We are optimistic about progress on educational exchanges. We expect progress in our cooperation on science and technology. We will inaugurate joint research on endangered species in the Gulf of California. And we will, in fact, be building a new bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, while reopening a larger, rebuilt bridge there as well.
These and a host of other issues will be discussed by our working groups. Understandings and cooperative efforts in areas such as the environment, energy, labor, transportation and commerce strengthen the fabric of our relationship and help to bind our people together in pursuit of goals we share.
But there is a deeper and more profound basis for friendship between the United States and Mexico, and that is democracy. We believe, with Benito Juarez, that "Democracy is the destiny of humanity; (and) freedom its indestructible arm."
Together, we have worked on a regional and global basis to strengthen and integrate the international system around principles of law and respect for the rights of individuals. Together, we helped lead the effort to extend the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions. Together, we are striving to strengthen the inter-American system and to implement commitments made at the Miami Summit of the Americas. Together, we have supported the historic movement towards peace, greater social justice and genuine democracy in Guatemala--as I was inspired yesterday to see--and throughout Central America. And together, we are working--as we must--to strengthen the forces of democracy and law in our own two countries in the battle against the hydra-headed evil of drugs, corruption, money-laundering, illegal arms trafficking and organized crime.
My government applauds President Zedillo's personal commitment, and that of Mexico's government, to cooperate with us in this fight. We have seen your courage in denouncing and unmasking corruption. We applaud the steps you have taken to criminalize money-laundering and facilitate extradition in the service of justice. We are conscious of the sacrifice of Mexican law enforcement and judicial officers struck down by these criminals. And we are encouraged by the rise in Mexico--as in the United States--of a vigorous civil society; of journalists, lawyers, community leaders and just plain citizens demanding that public institutions serve public interests.
Together, we have taken many forward steps. But we know that--in the struggle between law and outlaw, between democratic integrity and corrupt expediency--we are neither winning nor losing, but remain in the hottest stages of battle. Accordingly, we must follow up on last year's high narcotics seizure rates by intensifying joint operations and putting major traffickers behind bars. We must build law enforcement institutions that are fully professional, and give our professional law enforcement personnel the resources and backing they deserve. We must continue our work both bilaterally and at the OAS to curb the black market sale of deadly arms. And we must join in emphasizing to all our people, in the words of President Clinton, that "drugs are wrong, drugs are illegal, and drugs will kill you."
Law is the lifeblood of democracy. And I know that, in recent weeks, the United States immigration laws have been subject to criticism here in Mexico. As someone who emigrated to the United States, herself, I sympathize with those who have crossed the border in search of opportunity.
But every nation has a right and a need to regulate immigration--to allow legal immigrants to remain, and require those who are not legal to leave. That is our right, but our obligation is to see that in enforcing the law, the rights and dignity of every individual--I repeat, every individual--are protected.
This issue is emotional on both sides of the border, and complicated by the fact that--in our democracies--publicity is available to many voices on both sides of the border. It is up to us, as officials, to do all we can to cooperate on the basis of principle and law. That is the commitment we each have made, and it will require ongoing dialogue in the year ahead.
Underlying the U.S.-Mexico partnership, and linked to our ability to make progress on other issues, is our commitment to mutual prosperity. President Clinton has demonstrated his leadership in responding when problems arose here. Mexico has answered by re-paying our help early and in full, and by creating a climate for expanded commerce and rapid growth.
We must continue to build on this progress and to make our citizens aware that the creation of jobs and higher standards of living is not a zero sum game. We must grow on both sides of the border and we must strive to do so in ways that are socially and environmentally sustainable and that benefit the broadest possible segments of our populations.
As we proceed today, and in future months, we must bear in mind that our own efforts are part of an historic process. Modern attention spans are short, but effective institutions, robust economies, durable partnerships and positive attitudes do not arise overnight. They require constant tending and persistent hard work.
Fortunately, work in the spirit of cooperation and with a focus on results is that the Binational Commission is all about. I am delighted to play a role. And I know I speak for the entire U.S. delegation when I say that we welcome this opportunity and look forward to the meetings ahead.


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