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.