Mexico fights cross-border trucking end

Published March, 16 2009

Upset with the U.S. cancellation of a pilot program to allow Mexican trucks to transport goods in the U.S., Mexico said today, March 16, it will raise tariffs on about 90 U.S. products, according to news reports.

Mexico’s Economy Department said the U.S. decision violates the North American Free Trade Agreement that was set to have approved cross-border trucking years ago. Mexican officials told a news conference the tariff increase will affect about $2.4 billion in trade. It did not name the products or specify how much import tariffs will rise.

President Obama has signed a bill that ended the 18-month-old cross-border trucking program with Mexico, but initiated efforts to meet North American Free Trade Agreement obligations.

Last week, Obama signed the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which included a provision to end the Department of Transportation’s trucking project, which was to allow 100 Mexican carriers to do business beyond the border zone in the United States, and a reciprocal number of U.S. carriers to do the same in Mexico.

Congress had sought to end the program and several groups had fought it in federal court over concerns the select carriers in the program were not representative of Mexican carriers and the number of participants was statistically insignificant.

When Republican DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Democrat Obama represented Illinois as congressional members, they voted for a bill passed to halt the project. The DOT released a statement that Obama recognized these concerns.

“The president has tasked the Department of Transportation to work with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of State, along with leaders in Congress and Mexican officials, to propose legislation creating a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns of Congress and our NAFTA commitments,” said a DOT statement.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who sponsored the amendment that ended the program, had written to DOT officials to express “his willingness to work with the administration in good faith to address this issue.”

On Feb. 6, the DOT’s Office of Inspector General reported earlier criticism of the program: it had insufficient participants to yield statistically significant results. The program’s first year ended Sept. 6, but in August, the DOT extended the project two more years. The Bush administration had supported the program.