Felipe Calderon and Barack Obama agreed yesterday to allow Mexican trucks to cross the border and operate on U.S. highways. Cross-border trucking has been held up since the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified in 1995. Yet at a White House news conference with Calderon, Obama declared “we have found a clear path to resolve the dispute over trucking between our two countries.”
Under the new arrangement, which requires congressional approval, Mexican truckers planning to cross the border would have to be fluent in English and subject to drug testing. Additionally, their vehicles will be obligated to carry electronic on-board recorders in order to ensure “compliance with hours-of-service and related laws.”
The agreement could have an immediate impact on the U.S. economy in that the Mexican government pledged to drop a number of tariffs placed after a 2009 pilot program was cancelled. According to the White House, Mexico would remove taxes on $2.4 billion worth of imports on goods such as pork, cheese, corn and fruits.
The deal has been met with opposition from some labor unions and independent truckers who worry over the potential loss of jobs and revenue in the U.S. Conversely, the pact was backed by business interests as well as U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from Texas who praised the “important step to more open, transparent and efficient trade between the two countries.”
Meanwhile, one Mexican truck company owner viewed the deal with cautious optimism:
“I am going to need to analyze it and know how it’s going to function to see if we would participate,” (Transportes Rafa owner Rafael) Godinez Beltran said. “It would open the market for work, but I’m going to wait and see if it can get beyond the politics.”The meeting between Calderon and Obama comes amid allegations of tense relations between their respective states after Wikileaks revealed U.S. diplomatic cables criticizing Mexican anti-drug efforts.
Image- Gregory Bull/AP via The Seattle Times (“A Mexican truck driver radios his company after taking his rig into the U.S. from Juarez, Mexico.”)
Online Sources- Sydney Morning Herald, BusinessWeek, SignOnSanDiego.com, Houston Chronicle, The Latin Americanist