NAFTA Wink-Nudge Stalls Mexico’s Trucking in US

The US-Mexican ‘”frontera” is a hot spot for turf rumbles and tariff tussles, on a personal and national scale. At this month’s Leaders Summit in Guadalajara. Presidents Calderon and Obama and Prime Minister Harper classically ducked the thorny subject of NAFTA’s stalled agreement for bi-national trucking reciprocity for Mexico. I suppose Mr. Harper got smart and ducked out to check his voice mail.

As part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. agreed to allow Mexican trucks unrestricted access to deliver goods in the U.S., a pledge it has never fully honored because US-based road safety advocates, environmental regulators, and union officials say Mexico’s trucks and drivers have yet to meet U.S. standards. NAFTA rules would also have allowed Mexican trucks to pick up cargo to return to Mexico.

Removing restrictions that prevent Mexican trucks from delivering goods across the border has been a top issue for President Calderon since the U.S. Congress, citing safety concerns, ended a pilot program in March 2009 that, for the first time, had allowed “some” Mexican-registry trucks “some” access to US byways. Upon program’s end, Mexico retaliated by imposing $2.4 billion in tariffs on imported U.S. goods, affecting companies such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Mary Kay Inc. As a result of the inaction and competitive obstacles being faced by its members, Mexico’s National Freight Transportation Chamber (Canacar) representing some 4,500 trucking companies, seeks $6 billion in compensation from the U.S. government because of the trucking conflict, alleging its northern neighbor wasn’t complying with NAFTA.

P&G and Mary Kay, along with CANACAR member truckers, are very large concerns, with orbits of smaller traders, suppliers and vendors relying upon them for their success. All sides are inflicting collateral damage in this turf war, and offer valid and compelling arguments that need to be heard as consensus is reached.

My sense is that this trucking agreement has never been more than lo-cal sweetener thrown onto the NAFTA cake by US negotiators, an overly-optimistic political wink-n-nudge that no US administration has ever cared enough about to cultivate. Somewhere between the US teamster’s claims of poor reliability and safety of Mexican equipment, US environmentalists’ opposition to Mexican truck entry based upon clean air standards, the pro-export, pro-open borders coalition of US exporters; and Mexican trucking enterprises who tire of waiting for the green light to unfettered access to the US transport market by Mexican trucking firms… lies the hard truth.

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