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Some Businessmen Uncertain About Free Trade Pact With PM-Bush-Mexico, Bjt

November 26, 1990

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) _ President Carlos Salinas de Gortari chose Monterrey for the summit with President Bush because this northern city symbolizes the economic miracle he envisions for Mexico.

But as Bush arrives to discuss a free trade agreement, some businessmen fear Mexican industry could suffer under such a pact.

″It’s inevitable: Some businesses will fail, others will have to change,″ said Miguel Garza, who owns a ceramics factory. ″It’s a new world.″

Because the agreement has not taken form, uncertainty is mixed with the skepticism. Formal negotiations don’t begin until next year and could take two years to complete.

″A free trade agreement will not change our situation and could help us,″ said Ernesto Garcia Martinez, director of Cifunsa, an auto parts company in nearby Saltillo. ″The Mexican automotive industry has proven itself for quality and volume.″

Labor leaders predict a free trade agreement will cost jobs by creating a form of economic Darwinism that will choke industries unable to compete with U.S. technology and industrial efficiency.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Monterrey in 1943, it already was on the way to becoming Mexico’s industrial capital.

″We are the locomotive that is pulling the nation to modernization,″ Mayor Socrates Rizzo says now.

Glass-and-steel towers occupied by businessmen with U.S. university degrees have come to overshadow the colonial buildings and cobbled streets of Old Monterrey.

The city glitters with prosperity, but city workers made it over for the summit nonetheless, painting buildings and repairing streets while White House teams checked security arrangements.

More than 1,000 telephone lines were installed to accommodate hundreds of journalists. A heliport was built in Monterrey and an airstrip added to Salinas’ nearby hometown of Agualeguas for the Bush visit.

On a mountain facing Monterrey’s 100-acre Grand Plaza, a neon sign flashed ″Welcome″ in English and Spanish.

The monument to the meeting between Roosevelt and President Manuel Avila Camacho, a large concrete cross on a street corner, had been vandalized and its plaque was missing. It was cleaned up, repaired and moved to a park.

A monument to the Bush visit has a flame that will remain lighted while he is here.

Interdependence with the United States has developed in Monterrey through cross-border culture, U.S.-owned assembly plants and travel. The city is 150 miles from Texas, and the U.S. consulate issued more than 200,000 visas last year for travel north of the border.

Nuevo Leon state, of which Monterrey is the capital, now has 7,500 businesses. The number is expected to increase with a free trade agreement and completion of new border-crossing facilities and bridges.

Monterrey’s press is generally recognized as the fairest and most aggressive in Mexico. The newspaper El Norte prepared a 100-page bilingual special section for the summit.

In a year, the city plans to open one of Latin America’s largest art museums. A 17-mile light rail transit system is to begin service in March and an international business and trade show center will be inaugurated in the spring.

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