U.S. Water News Online
SANTA FE, N.M. -- Mexican and U.S. states along the
international border need to work together more on nagging water and
environmental problems, the leader of a border governors' group said.
"We need regional, comprehensive approaches to resolving the water
issues. We can't go our separate ways," New Mexico Gov. Bill
Richardson said at the opening of a two-day Border Governors'
Conference. He serves as chairman of the group.
The federal government, through the International Boundary and
Water Commission, has not provided needed leadership to settle
differences over water between Mexico and the United States,
including the Rio Grande and Colorado River, Richardson said.
Governors from the four U.S. states and six Mexican states at the
conference need to explore a "bi-national multistate collaborative
approach on water," said Richardson.
He also said Mexico and the United States need to improve controls
over hazardous waste.
"Too much hazardous waste is ending up on both sides being dumped
on our fields, our waterways and the desert," said Richardson.
His remarks came at a forum on the North American Free Trade
Agreement, which went into effect a decade ago.
Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez also called for a greater focus
on border water problems.
A former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Jim Jones, said the United
States, Mexico and Canada should move beyond NAFTA and set a goal of
establishing a "borderless economy" within the next decade.
NAFTA has succeeded in expanding international trade and creating
jobs, he and other economic experts said at the forum. However, Jones
said the agreement was "only half successful" in improving social and
economic conditions for many Mexicans.
"The divide between the haves and have-nots has been growing. Half
of the population in Mexico have no tangible benefits gained out of
NAFTA," said Jones, a former Oklahoma congressman who served as
ambassador during the Clinton administration.
Jones recommended the United States and Canada provide development
money to Mexico for education, health care and infrastructure
improvements in exchange for reforms in the Mexican legal and tax
Gary Hufbauer of the Institute of International Economics in
Washington, D.C., drew applause at the forum when he advocated
changes in immigration policies.
"I think NAFTA countries should establish a presumption that after
a person has resided in a country for a long period of time -- five
to 10 years -- that person is entitled to a permanent resident visa,"
He also said "all persons in North America should be guaranteed
basic economic rights, whether they are legal or illegal residents"
in a state. Those rights include access to schools, public health
benefits, minimum wage protections and a driver's license, he said.
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