By Jon H. Harsch
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
Washington, Jan. 6 – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a proposal Thursday aimed at gradually opening U.S. highways to long-haul Mexican trucks. The dispute over trucking access which is required under NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) has resulted in Mexico imposing retaliatory tariffs on a broad range of U.S. exports to Mexico.
The U.S. proposal for “Phased U.S.-Mexico cross-border long haul trucking” focuses on safety issues. It calls for an electronic monitoring system to track Mexican trucks, drivers and carriers allowed to operate in the U.S. and also would include reviewing everything from carrier safety management programs (vehicle maintenance, drug and alcohol testing programs, driver qualification files, etc.) and drivers' driving records to checking all participating trucks for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) certification and EPA emissions standards. As well, each participating Mexican driver would be required to pass English Language Proficiency and US Traffic Laws knowledge tests, conducted in English.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has delivered its “Concept Document” to Congress and the Mexican government, explaining the aim is both safety and “satisfying the United States’ international obligations” under NAFTA. DOT states that “as specifics of the program are developed, the Administration will continue to ensure that the program delivers job growth and economic opportunities here at home. A formal proposal, which the public will have the opportunity to comment on, is expected to be announced in the coming months.”
The United Fresh Produce Association, the leading trade association for the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, welcomed the DOT proposal. United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther called it “a positive sign of progress in what has become a significant issue for the produce supply chain.”
“We are pleased that the Department of Transportation has finally released a U.S.-Mexico Cross Border Trucking proposal,” Guenther said. “This has gone on much too long and needs to be rectified as soon as possible. We will be working with our members to analyze the impact of this proposal and in particular discuss with Mexican officials if this proposal meets the United State’s obligations under NAFTA. In turn, we will ask the Mexican government to suspend their current trade retaliation efforts that have severely impacted trade of fresh fruits and vegetables with Mexico.”
United Fresh explains that Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs because the United States is not currently meeting its NAFTA obligations to allow a pilot program of Mexican trucks entering the U.S. It adds that “Under the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, Congress blocked funding for the Mexican Cross-Border Truck Safety Program. This was a pilot program allowing a small number of Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. while operating in international commerce. Though this program did not provide the full access that the Mexicans were entitled under our NAFTA obligations, the program had been in operation without retaliation since 2007. By removing this program, the United States is now in violation of its NAFTA commitments and excessive tariffs have been placed on U.S. products totaling $2 billion.”
Calling for urgent action to resolve the trucking dispute, United Fresh concluded that “In 2010, Congress removed the prohibition on funding allowing the administration to move forward with a new pilot program. However, the administration has yet to finalize this new pilot program and the Mexican government has imposed new duties on additional fresh produce items as a result of this unresolved conflict.”
Pointing out that U.S. pork exports to Mexico have dropped 11% since Mexico announced retaliatory tariffs on pork last August, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Sam Carney said “Mexico is our largest volume export market and the retaliation Mexico has put in place on pork has hurt U.S. pork producers. We applaud any effort by the U.S. Administration that will lead to progress in resolving this issue. Every month that the trucking issue goes unresolved, we continue to lose market share in Mexico – one of our most important export markets.”
To read the Department of Transportation's two-page proposal, go to: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/cross-border/Concept-Trucks-English.pdf
Oprima aquí para ver el documento en español, www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/cross-border/Concept-Trucks-Spanish.pdf
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