San Diego Union-Tribune

23-Jan-2001 Tuesday 


Bush to visit Fox's ranch in Mexico
First foreign trip slated next month 

George E. Condon Jr. 

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's first foreign visit will be with the world leader he knows best. The president will travel to Mexico next month to meet Vicente Fox at the Mexican president's rustic ranch in San Cristobal, near the city of Leon in the state of Guanajuato.

The meeting was announced simultaneously yesterday in Mexico City and Washington, with both governments hailing it as a step toward warmer relations between the two new presidents.

Mexico's statement expressed hope that the Feb. 16 meeting will "trigger . . . intense dialogue" in the relationship. White House press secretary Ari
Fleischer said it was "to begin the process of achieving closer ties between the United States and Mexico and expanding areas of cooperation."

Though no agenda has been announced, the two new presidents have a broad range of bilateral concerns they are likely to discuss, including trade,
immigration, drugs and the environment along the border.

Bush will be the 13th president to visit Mexico, and the trip continues the practice begun by Ronald Reagan of making Mexico and Canada the first
presidential contacts of each administration.

Bush had intended to meet Fox before taking office Saturday. But the meeting was delayed because of the controversy over the results of the U.S. election.

Now, said Fleischer, Bush "is following through on a commitment he made about going to Mexico."

The two got to know each other when they were governors -- Bush of Texas and Fox of Guanajuato. That kind of personal relationship led to the decision to go to Fox's ranch rather than make a quick stop in a city along the border, which is where most U.S.-Mexican summits have been held.

"He does have a personal relationship," Fleischer said. "And, of course, coming from a large border state like Texas, President Bush understands the importance of having a good relationship with Mexico."