President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico has a simple answer for those who say a free-trade agreement with the United States will cost American jobs.

The alternative, he says, will be much worse.Addressing U.S. newspaper editors on Wednesday, Salinas said Americans "should be very worried about the loss of jobs without a free-trade agreement."

Salinas spent the last week meeting with U.S. and Canadian officials in talks aimed at creating a North American free-trade zone.

The Mexican president said the economic changes in his country and the prospect of free trade among Mexico, Canada and the United States are as "far-reaching and

important" as the changes that have swept Eastern Europe.

Also on Wednesday, Harvard University announced an agreement to buy $2.9 million in Mexican debt and convert it into a scholarship fund to help Mexican students attending Harvard. The money will come from Harvard directly, from corporate donations and from a group in Mexico.

The United States has signed a free-trade agreement with Canada, but the proposed Mexico pact faces stiff opposition in the United States.

Labor unions fear American companies will flee across the border to take advantage of Mexico's cheap labor, and environmentalists worry that new companies moving to Mexico will evade pollution laws.