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President Fox to tour California

MEXICO CITY (AP) – On his first trip to the United States as Mexico’s president, Vicente Fox is seeking to strengthen ties with investors and Mexican immigrants in California, a state that has had a rocky relationship with its southern neighbor.

Fox, who leaves for his two-day tour of California on Wednesday, plans to address the state legislature, meet with technology leaders, attend a rally with Mexican immigrants and talk with Gov. Gray Davis.

He also plans to meet First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher, during a trip to a school in Los Angeles.



”They will speak about the importance of access to educational institutions as well as the right to receive an education of quality and equality on both sides of the border,” Fox’s office said in a news release Tuesday.

The visit is another sign of the warming relations between Mexico and California, which voted in 1994 to bar most state services to illegal immigrants. Then-Gov. Pete Wilson made that issue a central theme of his successful re-election campaign the same year, upsetting many Mexican leaders.




Since his election in 1998, Davis has sought to strengthen ties with Mexico, which became California’s largest trading partner under his leadership. He traveled to Mexico for Fox’s inauguration, pledging to work with the new Mexican leader to increase trade and make sure immigrants are treated with dignity and respect.

Those will be among the central themes of this week’s trip, along with how the two leaders can work together to solve their energy problems.

California officials have been ordering rolling blackouts, and although Mexico has had problems meeting its own energy needs, Fox promised President Bush last month that he would work with his northern neighbor to put together an integrated energy plan for the region.

During his visit, Fox will also continue his aggressive campaign to win over Mexican immigrants in the United States, meeting with Mexican agricultural workers and Indians.

Since taking office Dec. 1, Fox has played host to Mexican-American political activists at the presidential residence, toured the border to welcome returning migrants and lobbied for money-transfer companies to lower fees on funds sent back to Mexico from the United States.

Fox seems to want to reach out to Mexicans in the United States to build a lobbying group similar to influential Israeli and Cuban voting blocs there, said George Grayson, a Mexico specialist at the College of William & Mary.

”That is hard to do with relatively new immigrant groups,” Grayson said. ”Many Mexicans living in United States left Mexico to get away from conditions there and they tend as a group to be lower income, have lower educational levels and are also working like beavers.

”None of those characteristics seem to suggest they will spend time and money working as a lobby for Mexico.”

Fox also plans to look for more investment, especially from California’s high-tech industry. The former Coca-Cola executive is scheduled to inaugurate a Mexico-California trade office in Santa Ana, and meet with the state’s technology leaders.

Trade between Mexico and California shot up 34 percent in the first six months of 2000 compared with the same period the year before, largely on the exchange of electronics, telecommunications and electronic goods.


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