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Bush Holds Joint Press Conference with President of Mexico and Prime Minister of Canada

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 2:13 PM

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the great city of New Orleans. Thank you all for coming as well.

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New Orleans is one of America's really top cities. And they -- the people of New Orleans appreciate the help you gave them right after Hurricane Katrina. So I want to thank you very much for that.

New Orleans has always been a crossroads for our continent, and today there's no better place for our nations to look forward to a bright future. And that's what we're here to do.

I -- one of the things, you know, people ask, "Well, does it make sense for Mexico, Canada and the United States to meet?" Absolutely it makes sense. We're neighbors. A prosperous neighborhood is in our interests. A secure neighborhood is in our interests. And we share common values. So I'm not surprised we've had good meetings.

Plus, we like each other. It's easy to work with leaders who are straightforward and honest, tell you what's on their mind, care deeply about the people of their countries.

And we're problem solvers. That's how I've found this meeting and the previous meetings we've held.

And we talked about, you know, trade. Mexico, Canada and the United States made a bold decision in the early 1990s. Our countries decided to reduce our trade barriers through the North American Free Trade Agreement. That was a visionary move by previous leaders, a move that has benefited all three of our countries a lot.

Trade has tripled. Our economies have grown by more than 50 percent. Now is not the time to renegotiate NAFTA or walk away from NAFTA. Now is the time to make it work better for all our people. And now is the time to reduce trade barriers worldwide.

And so, we spent time talking about the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

BUSH: Canada is negotiating a Colombia free trade agreement. Mexico has a free trade agreement with Colombia. And a lot of folks are waiting for the United States Congress to bring this issue up and pass it.

It makes no sense to me to say that Colombia (sic) goods can come into our country duty-free, yet our goods can't go into Colombia duty- free. And yet that's the case. An agreement with Colombia would level the playing field.

And a failure to pass an agreement would send a terrible signal to our neighborhood.


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