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By Michael Bowman
13 January 2009
U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have restated their nations' shared commitment to combat illegal drug trafficking and preserve bilateral trade ties. President Bush held his last formal meeting with a sitting head of state.
|President George W. Bush meets with Mexican President Felipe Calderon (l) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, 13 Jan 2009|
President Bush says lawlessness and violence cannot be tolerated along the U.S.-Mexico border, and that, in President Calderon, the United States has a committed partner in the battle against the drug trade.
"He [Calderon] will not allow his country, or parts of his country, to be taken over by narco-traffickers. And the United States of America wants to share and help deal with the issue on both sides of the border," he said.
President Bush added that while Mexico battles powerful drug cartels the United States must stop consuming illegal narcotics and halt the flow of weapons to its southern neighbor.
Mr. Bush paid tribute to President Calderon, describing him as a man of conviction and principle.
The Mexican leader was equally effusive in his praise of President Bush, and echoed the call for effective law enforcement to crack down on the drug trade.
In addition, Mr. Calderon made an impassioned plea for sustaining free trade between the United States and Mexico.
The Mexican leader said that millions of Americans jobs are directly tied to trade with Mexico, and that Mexico is the world's second biggest purchaser of U.S. exports. He added that Mexico's recovery from the global economic crisis will play a helpful role in America's economic recovery.
Monday, Mr. Calderon hosted a meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Washington.
|U.S. President-elect Barack Obama (l) meeting with Mexico's president Felipe Calderon in Washington, 12 Jan 2009|
During the U.S. presidential campaign, Mr. Obama promised U.S. labor groups he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade agreement, NAFTA, between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Canadian and Mexican officials have expressed alarm at the prospect of any major changes to the pact, which went into effect during the Clinton administration. Aides to Mr. Obama say the president-elect remains committed to NAFTA, but wants to "upgrade" the accord to strengthen labor and environmental provisions.
Mr. Obama is also expected to meet soon with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Aides say Canada will likely be the incoming president's first foreign destination.
President Bush's first foreign trip was to Mexico in February, 2001. At the time, Mr. Bush pledged a renewed U.S. focus on America's ties with its hemispheric neighbors. Critics say that commitment faded after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.