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The White House, President George W. Bush

October 20, 2003




JW Marriott

Bangkok, Thailand

11:20 A.M. (Local)

DR. RICE: Good morning, afternoon or evening, depending on where your body clock is at this particular point in time. I'm going to speak just for a couple of minutes about the two meetings that were held this morning, and then I'd be glad to take your questions.

[ ... ]

There was also a meeting this morning with President Fox of Mexico.

[ ... ]

Q Two questions. First, can you describe the atmospherics between the two men? Have the tensions that were between them a couple of years ago completely dissipated? And secondly, on immigration, what you said sounds an awful lot like what was said last year after their meeting at APEC. Can you describe what progress there's been on the immigration issue since last year?

DR. RICE: The immigration issues are difficult and sensitive issues. And I think that everybody understands that the post-9/11 environment has made all of this, if anything, more difficult. But we're making a lot of progress on, for instance, some elements of smart -- smart borders, the kind of work that Tom Ridge has been doing with his colleagues, that is improving the border, even in the absence of new initiatives on immigration, per se. The movement of goods and people being helped by technology, the ability to sort between what is legal and safe and what is not, those are the kinds of things that I think are going to help improve the atmosphere on this issue in general.

But the Presidents have always made clear, and I think both of them have a strong commitment to humane immigration policies that recognize the realities of Mexico's and the U.S.'s relationship. In the longer-term, they are trying to work through it through the Mexican economy and growth in the Mexican economy so that the best workers, as Fox himself -- President Fox himself has said, can stay home and find good work. But in the short-term, I'm sure that they will continue to work on the issues. They want to get it right. They've made very clear that they want to get it right.

I'm sorry, the first question was?

Q The atmospherics and whether there was any tension.

DR. RICE: No, the atmospherics were great. In fact, the President had called President Fox several days ago before getting here, simply to say, I'm looking forward to seeing you. What happened has happened, and I think that it was a relaxed and really warm discussion and they're looking forward to meeting again.

I saw one other hand. Yes.

[ ... ]

Q On Mexico, again, did the President commit to President Fox a timetable for passage of a guest worker program, which Fox is under pressure at home to get passed? Was there any talk of when that would happen?

DR. RICE: They talked about the importance of dealing with this sensitive issue sensitively and recognizing that they want to do it right. They did not talk about timetables. But I think you will -- you will see that both Presidents are committed -- as they were committed when they were both governors -- to immigration policies that are humane, immigration policies that take account of the situation of Mexican workers, immigration policies that try to match willing workers and willing employers. But they recognize that these are hard issues and they're going to work through them in a way that makes sense for both countries.

[ ... ]

END 12:49 P.M. (Local)

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