After years of wrangling, US and Mexican officials signed an agreement Wednesday that allows trucks from each nation to travel on the other country’s highways – a key provision of NAFTA.
The United States and Mexico on Wednesday signed an agreement aimed at resolving a cross-border trucking dispute. The longstanding disagreement had come to symbolize growing resistance, especially in the US Congress, to free-trade provisions with America’s southern neighbor.
The accord, signed in Mexico City by US and Mexican transportation officials, would end a 15-year-old controversy that on the US side featured fears of unsafe Mexican trucks barreling along US highways, driven by unprofessional Mexican truckers.
On the Mexican side, outrage over the American disregard for a NAFTA provision led to retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from pork to consumer care products – which cost the US as much as $2 billion in exports.
The accord was greeted warmly by US trade, farm, and business organizations – but condemned by US trucking organizations, a sign the agreement could face trouble in Congress.
Under the agreement, the US will reinstate a pilot program for Mexican truck certification that was introduced under the Bush administration – and defunded by an angry Congress in 2009. Mexico, in turn, will immediately drop half of the tariffs on about 100 US products, with the rest to be removed when Mexican trucks actually start rolling across the border.
“The agreements signed today are a win for roadway safety and they are a win for trade,” said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood after signing the documents.
The accord requires all Mexican trucks operating in the US to comply with US safety standards, and it mandates the installation of monitoring devices to track truck usage and compliance with service requirements.
Recognizing the potential for a negative response from Congress, some supporters of Wednesday’s agreement wasted little time with praise and got right on to warnings against attempts to once again sidetrack the resolution.
“We are encouraged there is finally a positive end in sight,” said Bill Reinsch, president of theNational Foreign Trade Council in Washington. But he added, “We urge Congress to refrain from any action that would derail the program or fall short of our commitments under NAFTA.”
Some, who oppose any trucking accord allowing Mexican trucks to come north, continue to hammer at safety concerns.
“Opening the border to dangerous trucks at a time of high unemployment and rampant drug violence is a shameful abandonment of the Department of Transportation’s duty to protect American citizens from harm and to spend American tax dollars responsibly,” said Jim Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, in a statement. He said the accord “endangers American motorists.”
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