Ghost Road

| May 16, 2007

It’s a big part of why CNN’s Lou Dobbs is worked up lately, and there’s even a website, www.stopspp.com (a project of anti-immigration group MinutemanProject.com), dedicated to promoting the idea that the SPP is an extragovernmental conspiracy and by nature illegal.

But NASCO’s Tiffany Melvin sees the SPP in a quite simple way: “The SPP is about being good neighbors and actually enhances sovereignty, security and prosperity,” she says.

The Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration shares an interest in the “prosperity” side of the SPP, says ITA public affairs officer Matt Englehart. “It is about being good neighbors,” he says. “What it is not is a move toward a North American Union. There is no effort to unite the currencies. It will not happen. It’s a discussion between neighbors we share thousands of miles of borders with, and because our security is linked to our prosperity and vice versa, it’s important that we discuss important issues like bird flu and terrorism with our neighbors. Terrorists and diseases do not respect our borders.”

The SPP is a White House-led initiative, says Englehart, with partners in many departments. The kinds of things they’re working on: “Do you want your bank card to work if you go to Mexico City?” he says. “Do you want people to be held responsible if your information gets ripped off?”

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A Rocky Road for Cross-border Trucking
In July last year, talking to a reporter from Traffic World magazine, then-Acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino said that a one-year pilot program for up to 100 Mexican carriers would be launched to determine the feasibility of lifting the moratorium on Mexican-domiciled carriers operating outside the 20-mile commercial zone on the U.S. side of the border. She suggested that the program could be in place by the end of the year, but FMCSA officials later said that discussions were still under way and a launch of the program appeared unlikely anytime soon.

Says FMCSA director of communications Ian Grossman, “We are continuing our conversations with Mexican officials to allow cross-border trucking operations, but no decision has been made about when or if to open the border. If this does occur, we will have a safety plan in place to ensure that Mexico’s truck drivers and their vehicles will be safe to make deliveries in the U.S.”

It was yet another bit of news among many that have kept the trucking industry’s undivided attention since the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect on Jan. 1, 1994. Since then, the agreement has boosted already heavy trade among the three North American nations – measured from 1993 to 2003, in terms of U.S. exports, a 62 percent increase to Canada and a 106 percent increase to Mexico. In its initial form, NAFTA mandated increased freedom of operation for carriers on either side of the border between Mexico and the United States at least similar to the Canada-U.S. cross-border operations, but to this day restrictions on Mexican carriers in the United States remain despite President George W. Bush and former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s support for lifting the moratorium – and U.S. trucks can’t enter Mexico at all.

Since 9/11 the dark atmosphere hovering over immigration and security issues has further complicated the border picture.

In case you’ve forgotten some of the old news, here’s a NAFTA history in miniature:
11/13/1979 – Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan proposes a North American agreement aimed at increasing freedom of personal movement and trade.

7/1/1980 – President Jimmy Carter signs the Motor Carrier Reform Act into law, deregulating the trucking industry.

9/20/1982 – Attempting to inspire freer operation for U.S. carriers in Canada and Mexico, Reagan signs the Bus Regulatory Reform Act of 1982, which effectively put a moratorium on all international carriers operating in the U.S., with a caveat that immediately lifted the moratorium on Canadian carriers in response to the Brock-Gotlieb Understanding, a Canadian ruling granting cross-border market access to U.S. carriers.

10/30/1984 – Congress grants the executive branch further power to enter into free trade agreements on a bilateral basis.

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