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Business groups urge U.S. lawmakers to respect NAFTA's trucking rules.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce urge U.S. lawmakers to reinstate rules that allow Mexican trucks to enter the United States, as called for in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“At a time when the U.S. economy is in limbo and our exports are essential to maximizing our recovery and growth, it is critical for Congress and the Administration to act in accordance with our international commitments under NAFTA,” NFTC President Bill Reinsch said in a statement Tuesday. “By failing to honor the agreement, the United States is putting at risk economic and diplomatic relations with one of our largest trading partners and a key ally in the region. Backtracking on our promises provokes retaliation, as is evidenced by Mexico’s announcement.”

NO CREDIBILITY

Earlier, the U.S. Chamber also pointed to the truck program as positive for growth and jobs while reducing congestion and air pollution. “We have no credibility calling on other countries to meet their trade obligations if we refuse to keep our own," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement. "Mexico is our second largest export market in the world, and it’s very unfortunate we’ve been unable to resolve this issue after more than a decade."

Last week, the US Congress stopped a pilot program that had been in place since April 2007 and allowed a select number of Mexican trucks free access to the United States after passing safety tests. “Every Mexican truck entering the U.S. must meet every U.S. safety requirement, so these are some of the most inspected trucks anywhere in the world," Donohue points out. "Since the pilot project was launched, their safety record has been outstanding."

NAFTA called for the United States to permit Mexican trucks first in the border states in December 1995 and then throughout the country in January 2000. But due to opposition by U.S. unions and their backers on Capital Hill, the move was delayed until the pilot program in 2007.

BILLIONS IN LOSSES

As a result of the program ending, Mexico announced that it will hike tariffs on 90 U.S. products. The NFTC and other groups and companies earlier warned that such retaliations could
cost the United States as much as $2 billion per year and affect agriculture, consumer electronics, and textiles.  Among the companies that expressed their concern were Cargill, Caterpillar, ConAgra, Eastman Kodak, Mars, Nestle and Tyson Foods.

Mexico is a critically important export market for U.S. businesses and manufacturers, and increased tariffs on U.S. products make our companies and the goods they produce less competitive,” Chuck Dittrich, NFTC Vice President for Regional Trade Initiatives, said in the statement. “If we hope to grow our economy and create jobs, the United States cannot afford to take actions that provide ammunition for our trading partners to retaliate, and in turn restrict our competitiveness.”  

OBAMA COMPROMISE?

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that the Obama Administration shared the concerns of U.S. lawmakers that opposed the truck program, but would try to work with Mexico on a new program. 

"The President has asked the Department of Transportation to work with the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of State, along with leaders in Congress and Mexican officials, to propose legislation creating a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns of Congress and our NAFTA commitments," he said.

 

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