WASHINGTON – Act
Three of the “Three Amigos” road show opens tomorrow in
Quebec as the leaders of the United States, Mexico and
Canada hold what has become their annual summit amid signs
of greater cooperation on both drugs and energy.
The topics on the summit agenda will be little changed
from the earlier meetings in Waco, Texas, in 2005 and
Cancun, Mexico, in 2006, but the cast has a new member.
Felipe Calderón has replaced Vicente Fox as the Mexican
president since last year's summit, and he will join
President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
in Montebello, a resort in the Laurentian Mountains
halfway between Ottawa and Montreal.
Neighborly meeting: President Bush joins
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican
President Felipe Calderón tomorrow in Montebello,
Quebec, in hopes of expanding cooperation among
The agenda: Topics could include, among
others, border security, terrorism, Afghanistan
and the Middle East, energy, climate change and
The timing: The meeting comes as the
U.S. government is poised to offer a major aid
plan to Mexico to fight drug trafficking and
Even with a new representative of Mexico, though, the
leaders are unlikely to shed the title given them at the
two earlier summits – the Three Amigos. Just as hard to
shake have been the issues confronting them as once again
they will grapple with all the problems that arise from
sharing almost 7,500 miles of border during a time of
increased anxiety over terrorism.
Bush will interrupt his Texas vacation for two days of
meetings in a historic log chateau overlooking the Ottawa
The White House has tried to elevate the summit
discussions, with spokesman Gordon Johndroe last week
saying that they will be talking about global issues such
as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iran, climate change and
Bush also will be meeting one on one with each of the
other leaders. It is in those smaller meetings that
irritants between the neighbors will come to the surface.
Canada remains in a squabble with the United States over
Washington's efforts to block Canadian softwood from
coming into the U.S. market. Mexico is unhappy with what
it views as U.S. noncompliance with the North American
Free Trade Agreement when it comes to trucking and
There is a chance that Bush will be able to announce a
sweeping program in which the United States would provide
unprecedented aid to Mexico and would work together with
Mexican officials to break the back of the illegal drug
trade. But on the eve of the summit, work had not yet been
completed on that and it was not ready for unveiling.
Almost certainly, both Calderón and Harper will voice
their frustrations with the Bush administration's plans to
require passports for anyone to cross into the United
States from either neighboring country, something they see
as a potentially crippling blow to commerce.
The White House has agreed to delay the passport
requirement for land crossings until 2008, but both Harper
and Calderón are expected to push Bush to go further to
head off the anticipated increases in paperwork and
lengthening of costly delays at the border.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow said
the specter of passports is having “a very chilling effect
on border communities.” Davidow, president of the
Institute of the Americas at the University of California
San Diego, noted that delays at the San Ysidro crossing
routinely exceed an hour.
“The idea that one will have to invest money and time
to get a passport in order to cross over the border to see
Juarez or Tijuana, to have a meal or to do some shopping
or play golf, it's just going to have a very negative
effect on border economies,” he said.
Both Bush and Calderón hope to highlight areas of
agreement, particularly after the contentious debate in
Washington over efforts to combat illegal immigration. Fox
had used the Waco and Cancun summits to support Bush in
his battles with Congress, but he left office without
seeing any change in U.S. policy.
Now, Mexico would like to move beyond that debate.
“We need to rebalance the bilateral relationship,”
Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan
said in a recent speech in Washington. “In the past six or
five years, immigration and immigration reform became the
sole, single driver of this bilateral relationship.”
Sarukhan said it became “the horse pulling the cart of
the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.”
Today, he wants the focus on “other very critical
issues,” leading with what he called “drugs and thugs.”
That was a reference to the drug aid, which is expected
to be a multiyear, multimillion-dollar program of aid to
include wiretapping equipment, aircraft, radar and joint
The other issues cited by the ambassador were
infrastructure along the border and management of scarce
water resources. Sarukhan promised that Mexico would do
“On many of these issues, it's been easy to wag our
finger to the north when we sometimes forget that Mexico
is as co-responsible as the United States in the solution
to some of these challenges,” he said.
Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue,
a Washington center that studies North American issues,
said that energy would be an important part of the summit
agenda as well.
“There is good reason for the three countries to
cooperate on that,” Hakim said. “Both Mexico and Canada
need a lot of U.S. investment if they are going to take
advantage of their oil fields.”