Presidential Radio Address - 23 March 2002
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I'm traveling in Latin America, visiting three strong American allies -- Mexico, Peru, and El Salvador -- to reaffirm the central importance I place on American relations with the rest of our hemisphere.
Our country's future is closely tied to the success and security of our closest neighbors. Problems like drug trade and poverty produce terrible consequences for all our countries. And prosperity in our hemisphere will produce profound benefits for all our countries. The United States is strongly committed to helping build an entire hemisphere that lives in liberty and trades in freedom.
The NAFTA trade agreement is a model for the world. NAFTA has created jobs and lifted lives, in Mexico and Canada and the United States. During NAFTA's first seven years, 15 million jobs were created in the United States. Our trade with Mexico now averages more than $650 million a day. And that's why our border is one of the busiest in the world, and keeping trade and traffic moving freely is essential to America and American jobs.
Yet, we must also prevent our terrorist enemies from using the openness of our society against us. Even our welcoming country must be able to shut its doors to terrorists and drugs and weapons at our own borders. So America, working closely with Canada and Mexico, has set a goal: We are working for a common border that is open to commerce and legitimate travel, and closed to drug trafficking and terror. We want to speed the movement of legal goods and people across the border, and stop the illegal movement of goods and people. And we will use the most up-to-date technology to achieve this goal.
This week, I saw some of that technology at work on a visit to a border near El Paso, Texas. X ray machines are being used to thoroughly screen cargo more efficiently than ever before. During my visit to Mexico, President Fox and I announced an agreement to move toward a "Smart Border" between our countries. Through close cooperation and advanced technology, we'll make our shared border more open and more secure.
We'll work with the Mexican government to identify individuals who pose threats to North America before they arrive here. We will share technology to inspect traffic on cross-border rail lines and at major ports of entry. We will make sure that people with legitimate business, who travel regularly across the border, can cross easily -- so border authorities can focus on greater risks. And we will share information more quickly and efficiently with our Mexican friends.
America's border with Mexico is a region of tremendous economic vitality, and that must not change. Both our nations benefit from close ties of family and culture and commerce. Our new approach to strengthened border security will preserve that openness, and increase the safety of our country. America will defend ourselves against new threats, at the same time that we build closer relationships with our neighbors.
Thank you all for listening.