Mexico's Fox Heads to Summit With Hopes of Joining G-8

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Mexican President Vicente Fox (search) is treating his invitation to the Group of Eight summit as a major opportunity to promote a more prominent world role for his nation.

Fox said this week that Mexico would like to join the grouping of the world's top seven industrial powers, which also work with Russia, whose leaders will open meetings Sunday in Evian, France (search). Nearly a dozen other countries have been invited, but are not members.

"I would propose that Mexico should be permanently invited to the G-8 (search) because we're the world's ninth-largest economy and that would be only natural and logical," Fox said in an interview with the Financial Times of London.

The idea strikes many as unlikely.

"There's a great distance between President Fox's statements ... and the reality of things," said Humberto Garza, an expert on Mexican foreign relations at the elite College of Mexico.

Garza said the group's discussions with Fox and other invited leaders would take place "once the serious meetings have ended."

It's as if "they were inviting the representatives of friendly countries to have a cup of coffee or inviting them to the dinner at the close of the meeting," Garza said.

Even officials in China, who also are invited, have downplayed the idea of joining the G-8, and expansion has not been a major topic of debate within the group.

The Mexican president, whose election ended 71 years of single-party rule, has been trying to push his country away from its traditional wariness of foreign entanglements.

That larger political role on the world stage might help counterbalance Mexico's increasing economic ties -- some say dependence -- on the neighboring United States, which receives 75 percent of Mexico's exports. But the two positions sometimes clash.

The Fox administration's successful campaign for a temporary seat on the U.N. Security Council was widely criticized because it led to friction with the United States over pacifist Mexico's reluctance to support an invasion of Iraq, chilling Fox's once-close relationship with the U.S. president.

"It was highly costly to national interests," Garza said.

U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza -- no relation to the analyst -- admitted this week: "It is unlikely that we are going to be able to re-create the 'irrational exuberance' of the first days of the presidencies of George W. Bush and Vicente Fox."

Significantly, Fox has no formally scheduled one-on-one meeting at the summit with Bush, who came to office in 2001 vowing to increase attention on U.S.-Mexico relations.

Undeterred, Fox now has suggested seeking a permanent seat on an expanded Security Council, a topic he discussed last week with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"This is the moment to strengthen the presence and negotiating ability of the region facing the great topics of the international community," Fox said on May 22.

While seeking respect, Fox also is looking for help.

The Mexican and Brazilian leaders agreed to urge Europe and the United States to slash agricultural subsidies that make it hard for poorer nations to compete -- a topic that will be debated during the World Trade Organization's meeting in Cancun later this year.

Fox also said he would seek help from the G-8 on plans for private-public financing of infrastructure projects.

There, too, Mexican officials show no fear of inflating expectations.

Deputy Foreign Secretary Enrique Berruga said this week that because of the economic power of the summit nations, agreements reached at the meeting "could be an important engine of world economic growth."