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Trust, But Verify
September 5, 2001

In yesterday's New York Times, Mexican President Vicente Fox managed to use the word "trust" no less than ten times in a single op-ed. Wethinks he doth protest too much.

Trust is a tricky thing, requiring careful cultivation and a long growing season. It cannot be negotiated or subsidized, imposed or directed. It can only be earned - and though Mr. Fox claims that "trust has been sown," Mexico has done little to merit our faith.

President Fox praises the "economic partnership" created by NAFTA, but the balance sheet tells a different story. Since the agreement's passage, our trade surplus with our NAFTA "partner" has fallen 71%. The $21 million beef surplus of 1995 has become a $152 million deficit. Two-thirds of Florida's tomato production has been wiped out, the dairy deficit has doubled, and 33,000 family farms have gone under. Yet Mr. Fox writes of "shared goals and shared responsibilities."

Part of his sharing scheme involves a "shared border control program." Yet Mr. Fox fails to mention his government's $2 million program to outfit border jumpers with care packages. Also forgotten are the recent remarks by his Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda who on his last U.S. trip mourned migrants "who die as a result of hostile action on the part of some." The "some" would be the U.S. Border Patrol.

More talk about trust? Try the "regional development programs" Mr. Fox envisions. We know them well. The memory of 1994's $53 billion peso bailout is still fresh. El Presidente claims we're being well compensated by "migrant labor [that] bolsters the American economy." Missing from his equation is the $79 billion taxpayer price-tag of our last amnesty grant as well as the ongoing cost of immigrants receiving welfare at twice the rate of natives.

By Mr. Fox's definition of trust, we're to "meet halfway" by throwing open our markets, binding the hands of our border guards, and subsidizing a "partner" at the cost of our own people. We're to trust a foreign leader who has publicly proposed the abolition of our border. And we're to trust that a nation that believes the American Southwest is its own lost territory will abandon its ancient grievance in return for guest visas.

There's a name for groundless faith in unproven goodwill, and it isn't trust. It's naiveté, and though cooperation with our neighbors will serve us well, innocence will not. As Ronald Reagan wisely advised, "Trust, but verify." And so we must, lest we lose sight of the stakes and become out-Foxed by our own virtue.

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