A real plan to boost exports

03/04/2011 10:37:22 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

The most encouraging sign yet that the Obama administration is committed to solving the cross-border trucking dispute happened with a joint appearance March 3 by President Obama and his counterpart, Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The leaders say they see a way to resolve the cross-border long-haul trucking dispute with Mexico. The issue is more than 15 years old, as Mexico was first promised access for its trucks to U.S. roads with the 1995 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Years of U.S. reluctance to act on its commitment — led by union and Democratic Party foot-dragging — culminated in 2009, when a modest U.S. cross-border trucking pilot program was suspended by Congress.

That resulted in the imposition of retaliatory duties by Mexico on a broad array of U.S. exports, including about a dozen fresh produce items.

The tariffs, ranging from 20% to 45%, have cost U.S. produce growers upward of $200 million, according to one estimate by Western Growers.

While the Obama administration has talked about its lofty goals of doubling exports within five years with the National Export Initiative, its lack of tangible progress in resolving the trucking dispute was having the opposite effect.

While the finish line appears to be in sight, U.S. produce interests know that the road ahead is not necessarily hazard-free. Senate Democrats could try to erect more roadblocks.

President Obama can’t allow that.

It is time for the U.S. to fulfill its obligation under NAFTA, which should be quickly followed by tariff-free exports of U.S. fresh produce and other goods to Mexico.

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