U.S. and Mexican officials have reached a cross-border trucking agreement that would allow Mexican trucks into the U.S. and require Mexico to phase out retaliatory tariffs, President Obama announced March 3.
Obama said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Ambassador Ron Kirk have reached consensus with their Mexican counterparts. Mexican President Felipe Calderón said retaliatory tariffs, estimated at $2.4 billion, will be lifted in phases.
Calderón said 50 percent of the tariffs will be ended when the agreement is signed. The remaining 50 percent will be dropped when the first Mexican truck is authorized under the new program.
In return, Mexican truckers must comply with U.S. safety and environmental regulations. The U.S. Department of Transportation will monitor driver skills, safety and language tests for Mexican truckers who intend to drive in the U.S.
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. and Mexico are required to allow trucks access to the other country’s highways.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association expressed outrage at the announcement. “Simply unbelievable,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “For all the president’s talk of helping small businesses survive, his administration is sure doing their best to destroy small trucking companies and the drivers they employ.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters also objects to the agreement. “I am strongly opposed to this agreement,” said President Jim Hoffa. “Why agree to a deal that threatens the jobs of U.S. truck drivers and warehouse workers when unemployment is so high? And why would we do it when drug cartel violence along the border is just getting worse?”
The American Trucking Associations supports the agreement. “When properly implemented, NAFTA’s trucking provisions should evolve to allow for a more efficient, safe and secure environment for cross-border operations between the U.S. and Mexico,” ATA President Bill Graves said.
In his fiscal 2012 budget request, Obama earmarked $50.4 million to “support cross-border inspections and the Mexican long-haul program,” which includes $5 million to begin multi-year improvement of U.S.-Mexico border inspection facilities. The House highways subcommittee pledged Jan. 23 to monitor the program to ensure truck safety and protect U.S. jobs.