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A Meeting With a Key Player Missing

U.S. trade with Mexico is booming. Last year California’s exports to Mexico grew at a staggering 23%, to a total of $9.05 billion--electronic equipment, computers, industrial machinery, plastic products, chemicals, food, paper. But they could be much larger. Texas, with an economy half the size of California’s, tripled that amount. Our business-minded governor ought to take a cue from those numbers.

One among many factors in trade between individual states and Mexico is the nature of the relationship. That there is ill will in the California-Mexico relationship cannot be denied. Gov. Pete Wilson’s strong support of Proposition 187, the 1994 measure to ban social services to illegal immigrants, including schoolchildren, has made him a political target of Latinos on both sides of the border. Wilson insists his motives in leading the fight for 187 were misread, but that line has not washed.

What better chance could there have been to heal the breach than Friday’s meeting in Mexico of U.S. and Mexican border governors, a meeting that Wilson has declined to attend? Border infrastructure and cultural and environmental issues, including cleanup of effluents from Tijuana that pollute waters around San Diego, will also be on the table.

By not attending, Wilson deepens Mexican suspicions about his motives and leaves a hole in the conference that lower-level state officials can’t fill. The governor is doing a disservice to California by snubbing the state’s third-largest trading partner.

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