U.S. President George W. Bush began a trip intended to strengthen ties with Mexico and Canada on issues like terrorism, trade and problems along the long borders the United States shares with its neighbors.
Bush said he was concerned that a "protectionist tendency and isolationist tendency" could emerge among the three countries and make cooperation more difficult, particularly in the face of economic challenges from countries like China. In an interview with Canadian television, he said the strong relationship with Mexico and Canada needs to be further strengthened.
The president arrived in Cancun Wednesday evening to an understated welcome from just a few local officials gathered at the bottom of Air Force One's stairs. Bush is meeting Thursday and Friday with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
While thousands of U.S. students lounge on the beach in this spring break spot, Bush, Fox and Harper will grapple with issues like trade, terrorism and border and immigration problems.
The student crowds are smaller this year with the beachfront still rebounding from last year's Hurricane Wilma, and Mexican officials are no doubt hoping the international attention from the summit will help boost tourism again.
"Cancun will be the eyes of the world," said cab driver Luciano Salgado Campos as he drove past downed trees lining the road from the airport to the beachfront resorts. "President Bush will be able to see how much progress has been made already."
Fox's government has spent millions to rebuild the beaches and dredge sand from the ocean floor to replace what was swept away in October, when Wilma brought winds reaching 150 mph. Many hotels still are closed, reports the AP.
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