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Reagan, De la Madrid to Stress Better Ties at Mazatlan

February 12, 1988|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan, in the first of a series of farewell trips that will take him to Mexico, Canada and Western Europe in coming months, will meet Saturday with President Miguel de la Madrid of Mexico against the backdrop of an impending U.S. decision on whether to oppose international aid to that nation because of drug trafficking.

The two presidents will meet in the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan in the state of Sinaloa, known as a center of the Mexican drug trade, with the stated intention of discussing highlights of improved relations such as trade agreements on textiles and steel and expanded transportation links. With both leaders' terms ending in the next year, they want to "try to showcase the areas where there has been a lot of cooperation and a lot of achievement," a senior Reagan Administration official said.

Nevertheless, Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, said Thursday that "the President will discuss the drug situation with President De la Madrid."

Presidential Certification

American officials say they are convinced that Mexico's effort to stem the flow of narcotics into the United States is inadequate, which may influence the aid decision, due by the end of the month.

Under a 1986 law, the President must certify that nations with large drug trafficking operations such as Mexico are fully cooperating with U.S. anti-drug efforts and making reasonable progress themselves in cracking down on smuggling.

Without such certification, the United States would be required to vote against proposed loans for the countries in such international financial institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

In the last six months, the World Bank has approved a $715-million loan to Mexico, and another $300-million loan is being prepared, a bank spokesman said. While the United States cannot veto such assistance, it holds the largest voting share on the bank's board of directors.

The senior Administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that no recommendation had been sent to Reagan from the State Department.

'Flow of Drugs Increasing'

"Mexico is making increasing efforts to fight drug trafficking, but those efforts are not adequate," he said. "The flow of drugs is increasing."

U.S. officials expect the Mexicans to argue that the United States is not doing enough to curb the demand for drugs in this country. Mexico is the greatest source of marijuana and heroin sold in the United States, and about a third of the cocaine entering this nation from other countries is shipped through Mexico, the U.S. official said.

Reflecting the sensitivity of the drug issue in U.S.-Mexican relations, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III will accompany Reagan to Mazatlan. Other senior U.S. officials making the trip include Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, special U.S. Trade Representative Clayton K. Yeutter and White House Chief of Staff Howard H. Baker Jr.

The President is flying to Los Angeles today. He will spend about four hours in Mazatlan, on the Pacific coast, before returning to California for a three-day holiday at his ranch northwest of Santa Barbara.

Reagan's meeting with De la Madrid will be his sixth. In previous sessions, the two leaders have dealt with a range of policy disagreements. Mexico, for example, has opposed U.S. support for the rebels in Nicaragua, and the Reagan Administration has complained that Mexico has been overly supportive of Nicaragua's leftist government.

"Neither side has changed its position, and neither side can be expected to do so," the Administration official said.

Although no significant progress on key issues is expected at Saturday's meeting, officials in Washington and Mexico City emphasized the signs of growing cooperation between the two nations.

"Economic relations between the United States and Mexico are now nearly excellent," the Administration official said.

Mexico continues to run a $400-million to $500-million monthly trade surplus with the United States, but trade accords have been reached covering imports of Mexican steel and textiles. The official also cited the likely completion of a civil aviation pact increasing service to Mexican resorts and a telecommunications agreement governing, among other things, use of mobile telephones in the border area.

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