Pressure grows to resolve Mexico border issue

A year after the United States ended its cross-border trucking program with Mexico, congressional leaders and trade groups are pressuring federal leaders to resolve the issue, while the U.S. House considered a bill that would end the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for a plan update and timeline to resume cross-border trucking with Mexico at a March 4 hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs of 10-45 percent on U.S. products soon after Congress voted to end its pilot program, hurting U.S. exports. Murray had also expressed these concerns to Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative, she said. LaHood told her a plan was being finalized.

“The reason it’s taken so long is because there’s a lot of different moving parts, including about five different cabinet officials, and every time we make a tweak or a change, everybody has to sign-off on it, but we’re very near a proposal that we think will meet all of the safety concerns that I heard when I talked to 25 members of Congress,” LaHood said. “We’re close to talking to all of you about what we think our way of addressing the safety concerns that Congress brought to us.”

Rep. Rick Larsen, a Washington Democrat, had garnered 54 bipartisan congressional signatures for a March 1 letter on the same subject to LaHood and Kirk. “We are writing to express our concern about the lack of action and transparency by the United States Trade Representatives and the Department of Transportation to tariffs imposed by Mexico,” the letter stated, urging a quick resolution. 

Trade groups have pushed to allow cross-border trucking beyond the border zone, although not the Teamsters and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. The latter has written Kirk and LaHood to challenge the legality of the Mexican tariffs, an issue raised by several congressional representatives.

Conversely, Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) introduced a bill March 4 that would end NAFTA six months after it was signed. This unusually short bill, H.R. 4759, has 27 co-sponsors and was referred to the House Ways and Means committee that day.

Carol Guthrie, a Kirk spokeswoman, confirmed that Kirk and LaHood met on the cross-border issue on March 11.

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