Mexico seeks permanent trucking deal

Updated Jan 11, 2011

Mexico’s economic secretary Bruno Ferrari said his nation is seeking a permanent cross-border trucking agreement after the United States announced it would restart a phased-in program with its southern neighbor.

“Our country is seeking a permanent and satisfactory solution that will bring certainty and the necessary conditions to Mexico carriers and allow them to participate in a more competitive market,” Ferrari said.

The 2007 Iraqi Supplemental Appropriations bill stipulates a phased-in program has a maximum lifespan of three years. The Obama administration must evaluate at the program’s end, using specified criteria, according to a transportation secretary office source.  
If those conditions are met, officials could begin granting long-haul authority to additional Mexican carriers, he said.

Ferrari said U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood teleconferenced with him and Juan Molinar Horcasitas, secretary of transportation and communications, on Jan. 6. U.S Trade officials will soon travel to Mexican to meet with the nation’s officials over the matter, he added.

Jose Luis Paz Vega, who heads Mexico’s trade and NAFTA office in Washington D.C., said Mexico was unwilling to accept another pilot project, according to a November Congressional report.

LaHood said the number of carrier and truck participants in the program’s first phase will be managed to ensure adequate oversight.

U. S. reaction to the DOT announcement echoed responses to when the DOT introduced what it described as a cross-border demonstration project. When Congress voted to end the project 19 months ago, Mexico instituted retaliatory tariffs on 99 U.S. goods.

Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and CEO, said the U.S. announcement “is a positive development in resolving this costly trade dispute with Mexico.”  Todd Spencer, executive vice-president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, however, said it would rob American truckers of jobs and that Mexico lacks U.S. regulatory standards.

Thomas Donohue, U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said a recent chamber study indicated 25,000 U.S. jobs are at risk if the trucking dispute remains unresolved. “We will closely study the U.S. proposal and hope we can help implement a modern cross-border transportation system that provides certainty for trucking companies and shippers throughout North America,” Donohue said.

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa described the announcement as U.S. taxpayers paying for Mexican trucking companies to take American jobs.

A June congressional report stated the DOT had estimated that ensuring Mexican truck safety costs at more than $500 million as of March 2008, after the first Mexican program participant crossed the border in September 2007. Long-term, U.S. drayage companies will likely lose market share to Mexican long-haul carriers, it concluded.

Democrat U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said they were pleased with the announcement, as the tariffs had hurt farmers in their home state of Washington.