Pilot project for Mexican trucks unveiled

04/13/2011 05:14:17 PM
Tom Karst

A pilot project aims to end retaliatory tariffs weighing down U.S. fresh produce exports to Mexico, but the Teamsters Union is loudly resisting the proposed solution to the long-running trade dispute over Mexican truck access in the U.S.

The Obama administration has issued a request for public comments on a proposal for a U.S. Mexico pilot project for cross-border long-haul trucking.

The Department of Transportation notice in the April 13 Federal Register would appear to bring closer the promise of an end to retaliatory tariffs on 99 U.S. items exported to Mexico, including 20% tariffs on apples, apricots, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, pears, strawberries, oranges, onions and sweet corn.

Mexico first enacted tariffs on U.S. goods in early 2009, not long after the U.S. ended a pilot program that had allowed Mexican truck drivers to operate in the U.S.

Despite U.S. obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Jim Hoffa, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Teamsters, said in a news release that union members will “vigorously oppose” the pilot program.

Hoffa said the Department of Transportation’s pilot program is bad for public safety and the federal budget.

“This proposal threatens the jobs of thousands of American truck drivers and warehouse workers along the border,” he said in a news release.

Nancy Foster, president of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association said the apple industry will strongly support implementation of the pilot program.

Produce industry leaders have pressed the administration to make the issue a priority, and President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon said a draft agreement was close at hand to end the dispute.

The April 13 notice said comments on the proposal will accepted until May 13.

After a final draft agreement is signed — expected sometime after the comment period is closed for the notice — Mexico said it will suspend 50% of its retaliatory tariffs, the White House said in March. Mexico will suspend the other 50% when the first Mexican carrier is granted operating authority under the program.

In a summary of the proposal, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the pilot program would allow Mexico-based motor carriers to operate throughout the U.S. for up to three years. U.S.-based motor carriers would be granted reciprocal rights to operate in Mexico for the same period.

Participating Mexican carriers and drivers would be required to comply with all applicable U.S. laws and regulations, the notice said.


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