For Immediate Release
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Mexico City, Mexico)
May 6, 1997
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON,
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT,
MEXICO SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS JOSE GURRIA,
MEXICO ATTORNEY GENERAL JORGE MADRAZO,
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL JANET RENO,
AND GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY
UPON RECEIVING BINATIONAL COMMISSION REPORT
Lopez Mateos Room
Los Pinos Presidential Palace
Mexico City, Mexico
ATTORNEY GENERAL MADRAZO: Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, President of the United Mexican States; Mr. William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States of America; distinguished members of the Mexican and U.S. delegations; ladies and gentlemen: Drug trafficking is one of the worst evils of our time. It generates great violence which is reflected in the lives that are lost, the futures that are severed, the homes that are broken, the institutions which are corrupted, the young people who lose their course, the young people whose future becomes obscured as well as uncertainty of thousands of families and communities.
The President of Mexico has justly described drug trafficking as the main threat to our national security. Beyond the intensical legal, political and international reasons, drug trafficking and the use of drugs by those who are the victims of drugs on a daily basis represents a fundamentally human problem as well as a problem of society at large.
If we understand it is so for the government to effectively to work in benefit of its people, the struggle against drugs must receive the highest priority. Nothing can replace the effort that each country must carry out against drug trafficking. No one can carry out the path that we are each
responsible for. Nevertheless, drug trafficking is a complex phenomenon and an international phenomenon and, thus, the success in combatting drug trafficking depends on harmonizing our efforts in the actions of each nation.
Mexico and the United States share a great responsibility in the struggle against drug trafficking and in abating the use of drugs. This is a responsibility which emerges from its intensive proximity with the United States in identifying the true common enemy, which must place us in a partnership situation as allies.
Historically, alliances are based on the respect of national sovereignty, on the dignity of the people and the reciprocal trust and everyday exercise or implementation of laws. The true and long-lasting alliances do not make the differences of the allies disappear; however, they know how to help them come together. They do not forget the history of each one, but underscore the actions which will make it possible to meet the common goals.
In the joint diagnosis carried out by Mexico and the United States on the threat of the drug phenomenon which is the result of the high-level contact group established between the two countries and which we are now placing in the hands of our heads of state -- this is an example of the fact that we are speaking the same language; that it is precisely this forum, the forum in which, through dialogue, we will be able to share efforts and share experiences, we will be able to set goals and courses, we will be able to deal with discrepancies and assess the results of change.
Yesterday, in the course of the 14th meeting of the Binational Commission of Mexico and the United States, these were the principles which were ratified, the criteria which were specified and the hopes which were shared.
The efforts which Mexico has carried out against drug trafficking are quite obvious. We have modernized and updated our legislation and our practices in important fields such as the dealing legally with users of organized crime -- money laundering, identifying suspicious financial operations. And in Mexico we are openly combatting -- and corruption and we are reorganizing and cleaning up the agencies dedicated to the fight against drugs. The premise is that this pact must be carried out honestly, efficiently, loyally and with conviction.
Much has been done, much has been accomplished. Yet, there is more yet to be done. The deviation of chemical precursors and the production of synthetic drugs, trafficking of weapons and the dismantling of drug cartels, the seizure and detention of fugitives who cross both sides of our borders, and legal, effective collaboration and reciprocal mutual legal assistance are fields in which binational cooperation must yet be improved.
A significant decrease in the consumption of drugs must be the backbone in order to do away with the chain of drug trafficking in the phases of production,
circulation and distribution. If there is a political will and mutual trust, if there is dialogue and cooperation with a precise strategy and clear goals which are susceptible to joint periodical assessment, it is not only possible, but sure, that we will make progress in our common goal in benefit of the people who, as civil servants, we owe our work to.
Thank you very much.
GENERAL MCCAFFREY: President Clinton, President Zedillo, distinguished members of the Cabinets of the United States and Mexico, and distinguished guests: (speaks in Spanish.) Let me continue in my somewhat better English, Mr. President.
Today I am pleased to report that we have finished a meeting of the highest ranking U.S.-Mexican counterdrug delegation ever assembled. The meeting was extremely productive. Under the leadership of Secretary Albright, Secretary Gurria, Attorneys General Madrazo and Reno, and the other members of the high-level contact group, we engaged one another in an atmosphere of trust, mutual respect and dedication and cooperation. We have set a standard that will serve us well.
The two of you as Presidents decided last March that it was appropriate to form this high-level contact group in order to bring a consistent Cabinet-level focus to our shared drug problem. Over the past year we have worked continuously to develop a shared viewpoint of the drug threat, and a consensus on how to make progress against its full cooperation.
Today we are releasing a binational drug threat assessment that outlines that shared view of the drug problem. Its major findings include, first, a recognition that illicit drug abuse, traffic and production pose serious threats to the national sovereignty and citizens of our two nations; second, an understanding of the effect that U.S. demand for illegal drugs has on international drug trafficking; third, an assessment of drug production and trafficking activities in our two nations; fourth, estimates of the scope of drug-related activities, such as money laundering and arms trafficking. And then, finally, the threat assessment as an appreciation of the social and criminal consequences of drug abuse and trafficking in our two nations.
This threat assessment we believe is a candid assessment of the nature of the problems we must cooperatively solve. Its very candor reflects the seriousness of our joint commitment to better protect our peoples and our social and political institutions from the drug menace.
Please allow me to briefly summarize how the United States intends to do its part to eliminate the drug threat. First, we will continue to make our absolute priority the reduction of U.S. demand for illegal drugs. We recognize that
the $50 billion our U.S. citizens spend on cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana and other drugs are a major part of the equation whose sum is crime, corruption and death.
However, over the past decade, the United States has reduced the number of U.S. drug users by one half. Casual cocaine use has dropped by 75 percent. We want every U.S. citizen to understand that when they purchase an illegal drug they are initiating a change reaction whose effects are felt in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Thailand and all the other countries that are afflicted by international drug criminals.
We also intend to continue enforcing our extremely tough antidrug laws. We will not tolerate drug trafficking or predatory behavior by chronic drug users or traffickers. We are serious about using our criminal justice system to break the cycle of drugs and crime. We will also incorporate treatment and prevention programs in our criminal justice system to further reduce the number of casual and chronic drug users.
Finally, we will continue to support cooperative antidrug efforts such as this U.S.-Mexican partnership and other regional counterdrug efforts. We understand that few nations can stand up to this international problem by themselves. We recognize we will only succeed by working together.
We have also submitted for the two President's joint consideration a declaration of alliance that will orient the joint U.S.-Mexico response to this serious drug problem. We believe it is important to publicly highlight the principles on which we intend to move forward. Our joint counterdrug efforts will be marked by absolute respect for the sovereignty and territorial jurisdiction of our two nations, and also an integrated approach and an adherence to the rule of law in both nations.
Through this binational drug threat assessment we pledge to vigorously pursue a comprehensive counterdrug effort that will better protect the citizens of our two great nations.
And now, with your permission, Attorney General Madrazo and I will formally present you with the Spanish and English versions of our binational drug threat assessment.
(The assessment is presented.) (Applause.)
ATTORNEY GENERAL RENO: Presidents Zedillo and Clinton, Secretaries Gurria and Albright, and other distinguished guests: It is with great pleasure that I present to you the conclusions of the working group on migration and consular affairs.
Judging from these conclusions and my experience with this working group over the last several years, I can attest
that it is a group true to its name; it works very, very hard. It has proven to be an invaluable forum for frank and constructive exchange on a broad range of migration matters, and for producing concrete actions and strong and enduring relationships. The proof of the strength of our relationship is that there are times when we agree to disagree, but we keep the communication alive.
Mexico is the source country for the largest number of legal immigrants to the United States. We are a nation of immigrants and we are proud of that tradition. From our diversity we gain our strength. At the same time, in order to keep avenues for legal immigration open, we must be able to enforce our laws against illegal immigration.
Over the last year, the working group has served as a forum for shared views on the new immigration law. The new immigration law gives the United States important tools for protecting our borders, for enforcing sanctions against those who exploit individuals in the workplace, for penalizing smugglers who prey upon people's hopes and dreams, and for removing criminal aliens and others whose right to remain in the country has expired.
During the course of the year, Secretary Gurria has vigorously represented his government's concerns with the new law. We have appreciated these perspectives. We have shared our implementing procedures in detail and done our best to address many of your government's concerns. We, like Mexico, recognize the sovereign right of every state to formulate and enforce its immigration laws.
As we have told Secretary Gurria, there is no question that while the new immigration law changes the way the INS does its work, our commitment to sustaining our immigration tradition does not change. We are committed to implementing the new law in a way that is fair and humane. We will respect the dignity and human rights of all Mexican nationals and others affected by the law. All individuals will receive due process of law. There will be no targeting of nationalities. We will continue our special concern for the needs of children and families. We will not tolerate abuse of migrants.
We are committed to implementing the new law in a way that fully honors our bilateral obligations, particularly with respect to guaranteeing consular access to our respective nationals. The memorandum of understanding on consular protection, signed here in Mexico City last year, signifies our shared commitment to principles of consular protection and for protecting the safety and the security of both our nationals as they travel between our beautiful nations.
We have shared with your government the broad outlines of an agreement negotiated last week between the
executive and legislative branches concerning a balanced U.S. budget. This agreement, which must now be enacted into law, will restore eligibility for certain federal benefits for certain legal immigrants in the United States.
We share a commitment to reduce violence at the border, to protect victims of traffickers and to combat forgers of documents. We will continue to develop effective mechanisms for information and exchange, and we will strengthen the consultations mechanisms between INS and Mexican consuls to ensure that if problems occur there is a way to solve them. We have agreed to hold a special series of meetings in the fall to further discuss implementation of the new law.
We are also following through on the regional plan of action we set into motion last year to combat migrant trafficking on a regional front. The Regional Conference on Migration, another concrete expression of the success of our dialogue, and so successfully chaired by the Mexican government last year, strengthened our efforts to protect human rights and develop new ways to address the migration issue in a comprehensive and cooperative manner.
We look forward to the results of the Binational Commission study and will have a special summer meeting to discuss this report. What we learn from the binational study will help to further strengthen our partnership in addressing the broad range of migration issues and allow us to continue building a vision for the future of our shared border.
Thank you, Mr. President.
SECRETARY GURRIA: Mr. Presidents, a high priority has been attached to migration on our bilateral agenda, and as well as the respect and protection of migratory workers, human and labor rights. The issue involves the quality of life of millions of people, the integrity of their families and their dignity. In this area, as in none other of our complex bilateral relations, our dialogue has had to overcome conflicting approaches and differing strategies.
Our starting point -- our common starting point has been acknowledging that every country has the right to determine and enforce its migratory laws in keeping with its own interests and in compliance with international law regarding human rights. Nevertheless, with the exception of this coincidence, our policies have diverged. For many years, while one country favored containment measures, the other broadened and strengthened the mechanisms to protect migrant workers.
That is why, since the beginning of President Zedillo's administration, we adopted a different approach within the working group on migration and consular affairs. We begin an process of dialogue and permanent consultation in different
fields, such as facilitating orderly crossings between the border communities, the repatriation of migrants, the fight against trafficking in human beings, regional cooperation on migratory issues and, especially, consular protection of the human rights of our Mexican nationals.
In this regard, Mexico highly values the signing on May 7, 1996 of the memorandum of understanding on consulate protection of nationals and the creation of consultation mechanisms between the INS regional agents and Mexican consuls based in the United States.
However, this has been insufficient. Today, we start a new era in bilateral cooperation on migratory issues, which will gain unprecedented momentum as a result of the joint declaration that Presidents Zedillo and Clinton have decided to sign.
This new era will be characterized by a spirit of cooperation that favors consultation over unilateral action. As a result of our Presidents' directives or mandates, we have set the common goal of adopting a comprehensive approach toward migration, taking into account the economic, social and cultural causes, as well as its effect on both sides of the border.
We will have as guiding principles the respect for human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migratory status and the observance of the bilateral and multilateral commitments of both of our governments. The mandate of the Presidents is quite clear, to carry out a more in-depth dialogue on every aspect of this phenomenon, widening our consultations on the policies we have adopted, as well as to create and implement new cooperation mechanisms in this field.
Thus, the working group has agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting, a special meeting to evaluate the results of the binational study on migration, which our government commissioned to experts from both countries and that after over two years will be delivered in the following weeks.
It was also decided that the INS carry out new regional consultations, that is between the INS and our consuls regarding the enforcement of the new migratory laws of the United States. We also agreed to continue our dialogue, which has already produced important results on the concerns of the Mexican government regarding the principle of family reunification and the need of especially vulnerable groups such as women and children.
We are first to acknowledge the efforts undertaken by President Clinton's administration with Congress in order to restore eligibility of certain legal immigrants to certain federal benefits. If approved, this measure will benefit a significant number of Mexicans residing in the United States.
We would like to express our deep appreciation to Janet Reno, Doris Meissner and their colleagues for their unwavering disposition for dialogue on this issue. We will endeavor to abide by the directives of both our Presidents and next year we will report to them on our progress in this area.
In the third part of this session we will present a report of the different subjects of the Binational Commission. We will give the report to Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State of the United States of America.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: President Clinton, President Zedillo, distinguished members of the Mexican and American Cabinets, members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen: I am pleased to add to the reports you have already received on the results of this meeting of our Binational Commission.
I say at the outset that the cooperation you see reflected in the results of our meetings here is also seen more broadly in the international arena. Particularly in recent years, the United States and Mexico have been able to work together on issues of regional and global importance, from extending the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to supporting the historic movement towards democracy and social justice in Central America. For that, and for the strong working relationship we have developed in a number of areas, I want publicly to thank and express my admiration for my colleague, Foreign Minister Gurria.
Closer to home, we have focused our attention on the many ways we can cooperate through the Binational Commission to enhance the security, prosperity, health and quality of life of people on both sides of our shared borders. During the last 24 hours, the Commission's 14 working groups have discussed a wide range of issues and achieved concrete results.
For example, we confirmed grants of $170 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the North American Development Bank for projects to clean and preserve the waters along our border. We finalized arrangements for the construction of a new bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros. We committed ourselves to two new technical assistance agreements to improve our cooperation in civil aviation, and we agreed to inaugurate joint research on endangered species in the Gulf of California.
All this is in addition to the major progress that I expect the Foreign Minister will cite with respect to water treatment plants along the border, expansion of the Fulbright- Garcia Robles exchange program in agricultural trade.
Regarding the border, while we have an excellent record of cooperation on labor and environmental issues, we both agree more needs to be done. We agreed that the Foreign
Ministers would coordinate a working group which will include labor and environmental ministers to report back within 90 days on recommendations for enhanced cooperation.
It is important to point out that as a result of NAFTA, Mexico is selling more of its goods and services in the United States, and the United States is selling more in Mexico. That translates into more jobs and greater prosperity in both countries, and demonstrates that in our era, and especially in a relationship between neighbors, economic growth is not a zero-sum game.
As you have heard, we also had intensive discussions on our common fight against narcotics trafficking and on the difficult issue of migration. The broad range of issues on which we cooperate gives confidence that we can reach full and effective understanding on these most difficult issues as well. The United States and Mexico are neighbors because of the border we share. But we are united because of the values we share. We proceed from a common foundation of respect for each other as democracies and as sovereign nations, and from a commitment to apply our laws correctly and humanely.
The Binational Commission gives us the opportunity to take stock of the interactions among our government officials, businesses and citizens that are occurring constantly. Every day, more and more, our peoples visit, study, work and conduct business with each other. It is what they do, more even than what our governments do, that will continue to bring our countries together and make our unique partnership work.
As we proceed we need to remember that we are part of an historic process. The seeds of cooperation we plant now will not always bear fruit quickly, but by tending all aspects of our relationship with care, we will provide ongoing benefits for our people and a firm basis for even greater progress in the years ahead. Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER GURRIA: Ladies and gentlemen, nothing illustrates better the importance of both nations attached to our bilateral relations as does this plenary session of the Binational Commission headed by our Presidents, President Zedillo, President Clinton, and with so many members of their Cabinets in attendance. There is no better indication of the political will to rebuild closer ties or the decision to improve our cooperation and to solve our differences than this Binational Commission. It is clear proof of mature relations and mutual respect.
Political and economic relations between Mexico and the United States have changed. They have come closer, from aloofness to commitment, from short-term solutions to diplomatic consultations at the highest level, from a lacking of order to having well-organized dialogues. This is evident in the hundreds
of issues addressed by the 14 working groups that held their sessions yesterday. I would like to comment on the most outstanding results.
In the field of border cooperation, the most important are the implementation of the environmental program of Border 21, the binational water treatment plant at Nuevo Laredo in San Diego, the two new border ports and an agreement to start building a third border port.
In this way, we will continue to work to modernize our border and to provide a more efficient infrastructure. We have agreed to promote a new, more humane and civilized vision of our common border in the eve of the 21st century. Our objective is to promote a border which has better management and which favors a balanced community infrastructure, the development of goods and services, a movement of people, goods exchanges and cultural and other aspects of commercial -- in this area.
A working group was created in this regard. It included the ministers of the environment, and in a period of 90 days, they will present a report on the progress achieved in reaching this common goal.
Legal affairs, antinarcotics cooperation and migration issues have already been presented to you. We will shortly receive instructions from both Presidents on the subjects.
The Group on Trade and Investment made an in-depth analysis of NAFTA. There are logically and inevitably some differences which are being dealt with in accordance with the treaty's own rules. Nevertheless, the balance is positive and clearly shows that NAFTA is working well. Furthermore, the Fiscal and Customs Affairs group has dealt with some irregularities and proposed tax reductions in order to strengthen trade between our countries, and has facilitated the flow of goods across our common border.
In financial aspects, cooperation has been exceptional, as is clearly shown by the support given to Mexico and by its early payment. The same can be said of the work being done in the field of money laundering. Additionally, mechanisms were discussed to jointly promote investment and tourism.
Important progress has also been made in the Group on Agriculture, such as the lifting of barriers to Mexican exports of tomato, avocado, wheat and Mexican pork products, as well as citrus and cherries from the United States. Progress is also being made regarding Mexican exports of poultry products.
In the Group on Fisheries, priority has been attached to jointly promoting the measures which will allow Mexico to resume its tuna exports. The process is already
underway in the U.S. Congress and the House of Representatives.
In that regard to the Group on Transportation, progress has been made toward the opening of our borders in this field in compliance with NAFTA provisions. Both Secretaries of Transportation agreed to build bridges of understanding and cooperation with a view to the 21st century.
In terms of telecommunications, agreements were reached in the field of satellite services which could well become models for hemisphere cooperation.
In the Energy Group work is focused on investment opportunities resulting from restructuring programs, particularly in the power and petro-chemical sectors. Also, cooperation projects involving renewable energy and the efficient use of energy are also under consideration.
The Group on Labor has worked based on the North American Labor Cooperation Agreement, and here we can highlight the exchange of information on employment, training, safety and hygiene in the working place.
In the field of education, the bilateral working group has made progress on education for migrants, attention to disabled people, education for adults, bilingual education and remote education. This last field is one in which we have close to 500 cooperation projects between Mexican and U.S. academic institutions.
In the cultural field, we must underscore the Mexico-U.S. Commission for Education and Cultural Exchange, which will make it possible to increase by 60 percent the number of scholarship holders by 1998, which will make our Fulbright-Garcia Robles program one of the largest Fulbright programs in the world. Through the Mexico-U.S. Foundation for Science and Technology, we have underway several scientific and technological projects.
For its part, the Mexico-U.S. Fund for Culture has undertaken 283 cultural exchange programs since its establishment. I would like to underscore the great success of the Olmeca exhibit in Washington at the National Gallery and the master works of the National Gallery exhibited for several months here in Mexico City at the National Museum of Anthropology, and in both cases were enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Mr. Presidents, yesterday we signed 11 bilateral agreements on the protection of natural resources and wildlife, education and cultural exchanges, aviation, the detection of illicit financial operations, an enlargement of bridges and the creation of border infrastructure and liaison mechanisms.
It is impossible to be fair to the work of the members of both Cabinets and even less to the wealth and quality of their common projects. But beyond numbers and beyond the diversity of our ties lie the institutions we have built to foster dialogues and the goodwill to cooperate. And lastly, I would like to express my appreciation to Mrs. Albright for her invaluable support in the work we have carried out.
And with this presentation, we come to an end of the report to the President. His Excellency William Clinton, the President of the United States of America will address you at this time.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. Members of the Mexican Cabinet and the American Cabinet, thank you for your reports and for the specific concrete efforts that you are making to move our relationship forward and to help our peoples.
Secretary Albright commented that the work of the Binational Commission was so broad because our relationship is so broad. This is a truly extraordinary thing to have this many people in our Cabinet, this many people in your Cabinet all working together on a broad range of issues.
Let me say, Mr. President, as you know, I'm particularly gratified also to be joined here by the strong bipartisan delegations from the United States Congress that are here from many states along the border, as well as Governor Miller of Nevada, the Chairman of the Governors Association in the United States. So we're here because we know that we have to make this relationship work together beyond party politics, within our countries and across our borders.
In the 21st century, we want our border to be our bond, and we want it to be rooted in a mutual commitment to the exchange of people and commerce across the border and to our fidelity to the rule of law. The reports we have heard today are fully consistent with that objective.
With regard to narcotics, I was very impressed by the drug threat assessment done jointly, by the proposal for an alliance -- and I think the word is well-taken -- it must be an alliance undertaken in good faith and mutual respect; by the news that the alliance will actually articulate a strategy and specific tactics for implementing the objectives of the alliance by the end of the year.
For our part, we in the United States know that we have to reduce our demand and General McCaffrey will tell you, we've presented the largest counternarcotics budget ever, but we also think we're doing more of the right things. The Attorney
General is working very hard to pass the right kind of juvenile justice legislation. And, as perhaps many of you in Mexico know, we have been quite successful in reducing drugs use among people whom we thought were the biggest problem: young Americans aged 18 to 34. Drug use in our country is going up among Americans even younger, under 18. So we are devoting an enormous amount of time and effort to that problem, and we hope we can show progress on our side.
I am confident, from the efforts which have been made and the statements which were made to me by the President earlier that Mexico is equally committed to making progress on this side of the border.
With regard to the migration report, I think it strikes the right balance. The Attorney General has explained what we are trying to do in the United States on this issue. I think we all know we have a deep stake in making the border crossings work, and we in the United States, in our government, have no interest in causing any unfair or undue harm to immigrants in our country. We are a nation of immigrants. We have been deeply enriched by them. They have made us the fifth largest Hispanic country in the world, with 22 million Americans now of Hispanic descent. But we know that we also have to enforce the integrity of our immigration laws at the border, in the workplace, in the criminal justice system, and we are attempting to strike the right balance.
As regards to the other issues, let me just say very briefly, I welcome the specific announcement on clean wastewater. We are trying to show our good faith by committing more funds to the environmental projects. We are concerned that the joint commission has approved something like 16 projects of which only four have been approved for financing by the North American Development Bank, and we're committed to doing something about that.
I'm especially pleased by the educational exchange comments and the commitment to increased educational exchange. I think that is very important. I'm very pleased that there will be a report back to us within 90 days from the relevant Cabinet officers on what we can do more to implement the labor and environmental accords.
And finally, let me say, Mr. President, I'm glad to see that our Cabinet members are reaffirming the fact that NAFTA has worked. There are some people still who assert in the United States that it has not; but it has. If you compare what has happened in the last three years with what happened the last time Mexico had some economic distress, you see that American exports have fared much better and the Mexican economy has come back much quicker and much stronger, and NAFTA is clearly partly responsible for that. So I'm glad to see that our Cabinet members are hanging in there and trying to get the evidence out
because I think it's clear that we did the right thing.
No one issue defines this relationship. The scope of it presents us with unique challenges and opportunities. It's vital that we work together, but I feel much better about our shared future because of the work that our Cabinet ministers are doing in this unprecedented forum. And I thank them for it and I thank you for hosting us today.
PRESIDENT ZEDILLO: Your Excellency, President Clinton, distinguished Members of the Congress of the United States of America, Governor, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Cabinet of President Clinton, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great pleasure for me to reiterate to all of you that you are most cordially welcome here in Mexico.
It is particularly pleasing for me to be able to cochair this session of conclusions of the Binational Commission to President Clinton. This underscores the importance that both governments attach to the bilateral relations between our two countries. This is the very important geographic and economic relations, socially, interculturally intense. At our borders, there is a daily average of close to 1 million legal crossings, and there are trade exchanges which last year represented close to $150 billion.
Due to its size, complexity and dynamism, our border reflects opportunity, the distinct diversity and the talents of two neighbors who are proud of their identity and of their effort. Along our border, we see and recognize diverse cultures and multiple traditions, different beliefs and even contrasting forms of life. Above all, on both sides of our border, today we are working together so that the relationship between Mexicans and Americans is based on respect, friendship and reciprocal benefits.
This intensive work is expressed in hundreds of meetings every year between the representatives of both governments, and in hundreds of actions which both federal governments attach great priority to. In this regard, I would like to very sincerely, personally recognize the particular interest and priority that President Clinton has attached to all aspects of our bilateral relationship. To a great extent, thanks to that interest and that special attention, we are now able to reach very important and different agreements.
The agreements resulting from this binational relationship is based on fundamental principles, principles such as legal equality, the principles of negotiating solutions to differences and procuring efficient cooperation mechanisms; principles such as the protection of -- and safety of families, multiplying opportunities for every man and for every women, and full development of our peoples in a framework of peace, democracy and justice.
The work of this commission, the agreements undersigned and those we will sign in the future show that we are making progress in establishing institutional channels for the relations between those countries. This increasing institutionalization of our relation is the result of the principles we share and of the efforts of those which make up the Binational Commission. Thus, I congratulate you quite sincerely.
It is true that on both sides of our border, there are voices which prefer to turn a deaf ear than to hold an open dialogue. They prefer recrimination rather than constructive cooperation. A very important task that we share, however, is to persuade those voices with effective results and with significant agreements like those that we've accomplished thus far.
Now we are able to prove that in peace and in respect, in cooperation, Mexico and the United States will be much more successful than through ill will and reproachment. Little by little, we have a long-term vision. We begin to see constructive attitudes, dialogue and especially, above all, mutual respect.
At present, nowadays, respect is the basis of a solid friendship, a long-lasting friendship between the Mexicans and the Americans. Today, the respect that you, President Clinton, have encouraged from the White House is the cornerstone of the relations between our two countries. Today, this respect encourages us to take advantage of our commonality in order to work in benefit of two great peoples -- the peoples of Mexico and the peoples of the United States of America.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)