Mexican President to Leave Americas' Summit

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is cutting short his meeting with North American leaders in Montebello, Quebec. He will return home to oversee emergency efforts regarding Hurricane Dean. The Category 5 storm hit Mexico's Caribbean coast.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm John Ydstie sitting in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Hurricane Dean is hitting Mexico's Caribbean Coast. When it roared ashore, it was a Category 5 storm.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon is cutting short his visit to Canada to oversee emergency efforts at home. At the moment, Calderon and President Bush are in Montebello, Quebec for the North American Summit with Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper.

NPR's Don Gonyea is at the summit and he joins us. Good morning.

DON GONYEA: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Even though you're in Quebec, a lot of eyes of course are on the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Dean.

GONYEA: Exactly. It's a summit that has an agenda that deals with trade and economic and security issues, but frankly the attention has been on the Gulf Coast. And all of the talk has been, will Calderon stick around for the meetings?

He is leaving early today, as you said. They had planned to have a news conference with the three leaders, wrapping things up at about 1:30 local time this afternoon. We're now told that's been moved up to noon so he could get back home to monitor the situation there.

MONTAGNE: And now President Bush yesterday met individually with Canada's Steven Harper and then Mexico's Felipe Calderon. What did they talk about in each of those meetings?

GONYEA: They're talking about something with a very generic title, the Security and Prosperity Partnership. It's this way for these North American leaders to try to address security concerns that they all have, heightened concerns since 9/11, without having that affect the free flow of commerce between their countries. And work on this really first began in 2005. We of course had a different Canadian prime minister then, and a different Mexican president.

This summit here in Canada, it's the first in Canada. It's the third meeting between the three North American leaders. And essentially they want to make it easier for goods and services to flow between the three countries, something that was underway with the North American free trade agreement, but again which has gotten harder. Things like uniform passport and visa standards they're talking about, and uniform food safety regulations.

They're also being advised at this summit by some 30 leaders of business and industry - 10 from each country - to talk about what they need to really strengthen this region economically, particularly in the face of global competition from the likes of China and India.

MONTAGNE: Now, Mexico has something of a grievance with the U.S. over overhauling immigration in the U.S. How has that played into these talks?

GONYEA: It comes up every time a president of Mexico meets with President Bush. Mexico has been counting on immigration law changes from the beginning of the Bush administration. He promised it way back in 2001, but again had to back away from it after 9/11. And ultimately, if we look at what's played out in Congress this past summer and this past year, he has failed to get anything through, and it doesn't look like he'll be able to really give Mexico the kind of things it's looking for during his tenure. So that came up.

Separately though, the U.S. is also pressuring Mexico to do more, to crack down on the illegal drug trade; that's the security side of these discussions. So they're not really easy talks they're having - talks among friends but difficult issues.

MONTAGNE: And Canada has some border issues of its own with the U.S. What's going on there?

GONYEA: They do. Steven Harper raised it in his one-on-one meeting with President Bush yesterday. Canada does not like the new, tougher border crossing rules that the U.S. has, that the president is promising to enforce, that among other things require passports for Canadian citizens entering the U.S. They just say it's going to bog down the border crossings, particularly in the very busy crossings, places like Buffalo and Detroit.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.

GONYEA: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Don Gonyea in Quebec, Canada for the North American Summit.

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