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Briefs (right)

Mexico Builds Trade Ties
With China

By James C. Mckinley Jr.

President Hu Jintao of China wooed Mexican leaders Monday during a state visit, trying to smooth out the often prickly relationship between the two countries as part of a larger campaign to expand China’s influence in Latin America.

In the afternoon, Hu and President Vicente Fox signed several minor agreements with great fanfare, among them one providing mutual tax limits on companies doing business in both countries and another that will allow Mexico to export grapes to China in return for importing Chinese pears.

The countries also agreed on a framework for negotiating future accords that may eventually allow Chinese companies to mine iron and other minerals in Mexico. In recent years, China has been scouring Latin America for iron and oil to feed its roaring economy.

But underneath these shows of cooperation lies an ugly economic street fight over the U.S. market, analysts say. Chinese companies have battered Mexico’s manufacturers and farmers in recent years, and many here see China threatening to replace Mexico as the main supplier of light manufactured goods.

Last year, China knocked Mexico out of the No. 2 spot on the list of importers to the United States.

And Mexico itself is flooded with Chinese products, both legal and contraband, from chili peppers to blue jeans to electronics. Last year, Mexico imported $31 in goods from China for every dollar’s worth it sent there, according to trade experts here, and that does not include the thriving market in smuggled Chinese goods.

Two Charged in Philippines
Spying Case

By Ronald Smothers


An FBI intelligence analyst and a former top Philippines law enforcement official were charged in federal court on Monday with espionage.

The FBI analyst, Leandro Aragoncillo, 46, of Woodbury, N.J., a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in the Philippines, and Michael Ray Aquino, 39, of Queens, a former deputy director of the Philippines National Police under the regime of former President Joseph Estrada. The two men are accused of passing classified agency information to government officials in Manila in a case that appeared related to the Philippines’ fractious internal politics.

According to affidavits by FBI agents, Aragoncillo passed copies of classified FBI documents about the Philippines to Aquino between February and August of this year, using cell phone text messages and e-mail messages.

Both men were ordered held without bail by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz. Aquino was in the United States on an expired six-month tourist visa that was issued in 2001.

Messages intercepted by investigators were heavily edited in the court affidavit but appeared to deal with FBI information about domestic political turmoil in the Philippines. The ultimate destination of the information, according to the court papers, was three unnamed public officials in the Philippines.

U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie declined to characterize the information that the two men are said to have passed.