U.S. Mexico sign cross border truck pact
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Mexico Secretary of Transportation and Communications Dionisio Arturo P'rez-J'come Friscione signed agreements on Wednesday resolving the dispute over long-haul, cross-border trucking services between the two countries.
DOT said the new pilot program “puts safety first and paves the way for Mexico to lift tariffs it imposed more than two years ago.”
Mexican truckers that meet requirements laid down by the agreement could be operating in the United States by August. The truckers will be required to comply with all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and must have electronic monitoring systems to track hours-of-service compliance. DOT will review the complete driving record of each driver and require all drug-testing samples to be analyzed in certified U.S. labs.
Drivers will undergo an assessment of their ability to understand the English language and U.S. traffic signs. The new agreement also ensures that Mexico will provide reciprocal authority for U.S. carriers to engage in cross-border, long-haul operations into that country.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said the agreement provides that Mexico would halve retaliatory duties it imposed on some U.S. goods in March 2009, but that he expected the reduction could happen as soon as Friday. The retaliatory duties are to be eliminated entirely within five days of the first Mexican trucking company receiving its authority to operate in the United States.
“As a result, Mexican tariffs that now range from 5 to 25 percent on an array of U.S. products such as apples, certain pork products, and personal care goods will be immediately cut in half and will disappear entirely within a few months when the program is fully implemented,” Kirk said.
'Mexico is the second-largest export market for U.S. manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and small businesses,” he said. “It is important to end these tariffs in order to increase U.S. exports.”
The agreement was hailed by several business groups and panned by the Teamsters and a group representing independent owner-operators.
Bill Graves, American Trucking Associations president and chief executive officer, said the agreement would improve efficiency of trucking and trade at the Mexican border.
'Further, ATA is encouraged that Mexico will soon be dropping its incredibly damaging tariffs, which will also spur growth in trade between our two countries,” he said.
But he added ATA is “concerned with the expenditure of taxpayer dollars for equipment to be used to monitor Mexican carriers' hours-of-service and track their movements in order to prevent domestic freight moves. However, we do appreciate the Department of Transportation's position that this financial help will be limited to the term of the pilot program and allows the U.S. to more effectively audit participating Mexican carriers.'
United Fresh, a produce trade organization, said “this accord is fantastic news for the produce industry, and we are excited to see more trade with Mexico, which provides such a valuable market for American produce,” the group said.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association welcomed the announcement, saying it promotes road safety, gives relief to U.S. retailers and other companies that are forced to pay the retaliatory duties, and restores normal trade flows.
RILA said those tariffs “raise the cost that retailers and their customers pay, and make U.S. products less competitive in Mexico when compared to their foreign alternates.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) blasted the announcement, saying it was not released in advance, and accused LaHood of “sneaking down there to sign it.”
“Seems like the administration is dead set on caving to Mexico's shakedown regardless of the costs to the American public and our tax coffers,” said Jim Johnston, OOIDA president.
He said his group “adamantly opposed opening the border because Mexico has failed to institute regulations and enforcement programs that are even remotely similar to those in the United States, and because there would be no relevant corresponding reciprocity for U.S. truckers.”
'People in Washington are constantly talking about two things these days — creating good jobs for Americans and cutting wasteful spending. This program does exactly the opposite for both,' said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. 'This program will jeopardize the livelihoods of tens of thousands of U.S.-based small-business truckers and professional truck drivers and undermine the standard of living for the rest of the driver community.”
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said the deal “endangers America’s highway safety, border security and warehouse and trucking jobs.”
Hoffa said the program is probably illegal because it grants permanent operating authority to Mexican trucks after 18 months in the so-called “pilot program” outlined in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register.
Congress has not granted DOT the legal authority to do so, Hoffa said. Further, DOT would use money from the Highway Trust Fund to pay for electronic on-board recorders for Mexican trucks. Hoffa questioned whether DOT can do that legally.
“Opening the border to dangerous trucks at a time of high unemployment and rampant drug violence is a shameful abandonment of the DOT’s duty to protect American citizens from harm and to spend American tax dollars responsibly,” Hoffa said. ' Chris Dupin