Salinas Discusses Trade, Immigration, Environment


Question: How do you see the proposed North American free trade agreement affecting immigration?

Answer: I’m convinced that the only way to reduce the flow of migration of Mexicans to the U.S. or even to Canada is through higher rates of economic growth and additional employment opportunities. We’re already growing at a rate of more than 4% in real terms, which is double the demographic rate. But we have to grow faster. . . to generate enough employment opportunities in Mexico. And this doesn’t mean that migration will disappear, because the U.S. economy exerts a very important demand pool on Mexican labor. But there are many Mexicans coming to the U.S. who would rather stay in Mexico if they could find a job there. . . . We are proposing a free trade agreement to Central America, precisely because we are facing a very important flow of Central American migrants coming to Mexico, finally wanting to come to the U.S. . . . The solution is not aid but trade.

Q: Are you also negotiating on trade with Japan and other countries?

A: The main thrust of our trade strategy is diversification. We want to have greater access to the European market. . . . We want a closer economic relationship with the Asian Pacific countries. . . . At the same time, Mexico has had historically very strong political and cultural relationships with Latin America, but very weak economic ones. So, we decided to make an additional thrust in our economic relationship with Latin America. (In September) I flew to Santiago de Chile, and I signed with President (Patricio) Aylwin the first-ever free trade agreement in Latin America. (This) is the first practical stone in the building of integration of Latin America.


Q: What is your message for Mexican-Americans and other Latinos in Los Angeles?

A: I’ve been very explicit with my message to the Mexican-American community. We want a closer relationship with this community. Because they have an enormous pride of their roots, heritage and we believe that they have a vantage point within the stronger trade ties with Mexico. I believe that the agreement would mean an additional opportunity for the Mexican-American community to increase business with Mexico. But at the same time . . . the free trade agreement actually means a wider decision to get a closer relationship between Mexico and the U.S. culturally.

Q: What will Mexico’s stance be on the environment once you leave office?

A: There is a new environmentalist culture in Mexico. And you would be surprised how deep it is among children. . . . It was mainly the children who stop car drivers, telling them that they shouldn’t be driving their car (on restricted days) because they were hurting them. So I am very pleased to find this very strong commitment coming from society . . . one which I am promoting because I believe that the stronger presence from society on every issue . . . will make these policies permanent. . . .


I have asked tuna producers in Mexico that if they want to continue producing tuna in our country it will have to be dolphin-free. . . . You know that Mexico and Brazil have more than 60% of the biodiversity (animal and plant species) of the whole Earth. And therefore, we are working very hard on that commitment to protect biodiversity within Mexico.

Q: What can you do so that police agencies do not feel that they can carry out abuses without being punished for it?

A: The most important thing is to avoid giving impunity. That is, whoever has the responsibility of power will know that he’s not above the law. That is why it was so important when we had strong evidence, in relation with the case you mentioned, to put him in jail (a reference to filing of murder charges against Mario Alberto Gonzalez Trevino, a former high-ranking Mexican narcotics officer). We are waging a war on drugs . . . (but) at the same time (we must) protect the human rights of individuals.

Q: Did you take part in the decision to nullify the election in Guanajuato because of fraud allegations?

A: Well, I knew what was happening, but . . . it was a local issue.

Q: What do you see happening in Cuba?

A: Whatever happens within Cuba is the sole responsibility of the Cubans. But I would make two comments. First, when Fidel Castro was in Guadalajara (earlier this year), he mentioned that he’s going through his worst economic moment ever. And second, after the coup in the Soviet Union, it meant a drastic change in the international situation for Cuba. So I would assume that, given the very difficult domestic economic situation along with the new relationship with the rest of the world, it could mean that they might reflect on possible changes domestically, but I don’t know if they are doing so.

Q: Will Mexico’s economic reform program last after Salinas?


A: Well, it will last as long as it has the capacity to show an improvement of everyday life of the population. Because then it will be the population that will demand that the economic reform be permanent.