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U.S., Mexico, Canada officials laud ties

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Trade officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico said Thursday the nations' economic ties have grown stronger despite strains over immigration and border security.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Mexican Economy Minister Sergio Garcia de Alba and Canadian Minister of Industry Maxime Bernier said the governments of all three countries were working to reduce trade frictions.

As part of that process, the three officials presided over the launch Thursday of the North American Competitiveness Council, a partnership between the government and business executives from the three countries. The panel will meet on a regular basis to deal with problems that are limiting trade.

The effort is being conducted under the "Security and Prosperity Partnership" that President Bush and the leaders of the other two countries launched a year ago.

Gutierrez said increased border security - including construction of a fence to deal with illegal immigrants coming into the United States from Mexico - would not harm the economic ties between the two nations.

He also said that the governments would work to resolve problems that arise from a controversial new requirement that all people coming into the United States after 2007, whether from Canada or Mexico, present a passport or some other tamper-proof document.

Opponents of the proposal contend that it will cause massive traffic backups on the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico, harming tourism and the flow of commerce.

Gutierrez rejected a suggestion that the requirement should be delayed to deal with the potential problems.

"We want to continue to have the movement of goods ... and we want to do it in a way that we have security," he said. "We can do both."