Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Neighbours Bound Together

The truly important political meeting here in the US today is of course the one between President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert of Israel. They will come together in the White House within just a few hours.

But another visitor arriving in the United States today also requires attention.

President Vincente Fox of Mexico arrives in Salt Lake City in Utah. And he continues with visits to Seattle in Washington state as well as Sacramento and Los Angeles in Californa until Friday.

He comes in the middle both of the heated immigration debate here - the Senate is expected to take its decision within the next few days - and the campaign in the race to succeed him as president of Mexico in the elections July 2nd.

In Salt Lake City he was meet by demonstrators warning against Aztlan. That's an imaginary plan by Mexicans and others through undermine the Southwest of the United States through immigration, create the state of Aztlan and break loose from the United States.

But the true issues in the immigration debate are economic.

No less than 15 % of the workforce of Mexico works in the United States. That's a very high number. By now, app 10 % of the population of Utah is Hispanic. And in a state like Washington 6 out of 10 farm workers are Mexicans. Los Angeles - with a Hispanic mayor - simply would not work without its Mexican and Hispanic inhabitants.

The strength of the US economy is partly founded on immigration. And President Fox will meet with business leaders throughout his trip.

He is likely to be vocal in his opposition to President Bush's plan to deploy the National Guard along the borders - approved by the Senate yesterday. So are the tweo contenders in the presidential race in Mexico - centre-right candidate Felipe Calderon and leftist firebrand Lopez Obrador.

The outcome of that race is important for everyone. With its 100 million people Mexico is an economic powerhouse in the making. Within a decade President Fox believes it should have reached a level of development where few people would prefer to cross the border with the United States.

But it's all dependent on the future of free trade. Mr Calderon is very much in fav our, while Mr Obrador might well pursue more populist and leftist policies, thus limiting the future possibilities of Mexico.

Neighbours are always dependent on each other.

The economic interdependence between the United States and Mexico through immigration is enormous.

And these days we see how the politics of the two nations, face with important elections later this year, interacts.