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U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's president, Pena Nieto, have announced a partnership to expand economic opportunities for citizens of both countries and to develop a 21st-century work force for mutual economic prosperity, according to a May 2 statement from the U.S. State Department.

Through a new Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, the U.S. and Mexican governments will encourage broader access to quality post-secondary education for traditionally under-served groups, especially in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They will also expand educational exchanges and share best practices in higher education and innovation, the statement said.

The forum's mission is to bring together government agency counterparts from Mexico and the U.S. to deepen cooperation on higher education, innovation and research. It will also draw on the expertise of the higher education communities in both countries, according to the State Department.

More than 18,000 Mexican and U.S. university students study in each other’s countries annually. The Mexico-U.S. Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (COMEXUS) oversees the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholarship Program, the flagship program in U.S.-Mexico academic exchanges. Under this program, more than 4,000 Mexicans and Americans have participated in bilateral exchange programs since 1990.

The new Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research plans to start meeting this year and bring together government, academic and civil society to develop a shared vision on educational cooperation, the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog said.

Obama traveled to Mexico City at Nieto's invitation for meetings that culminated in the announcement of the education initiative. The discussions also included economic interests and citizen security, but no security agreements were announced, The New York Times reported.

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com
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