US, Mexico Sign Cross-Border Trucking Agreement

Posted July 6th, 2011 at 3:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States and Mexico have signed agreements aimed at allowing Mexican truckers onto U.S. roads.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood signed the deals Wednesday with officials in Mexico City. LaHood issued a statement describing the agreements as a win for roadway safety and a win for trade.

The accords are designed to resolve the dispute over long-haul cross-border trucking services between the United States and Mexico, which is America's third-largest trading partner.

As part of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican truckers were to be able to deliver goods into the United States. The United States, however, had refused to allow them in because of safety and environmental concerns. Mexico imposed higher tariffs on some U.S. goods in connection with the dispute.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says the new program puts safety first and paves the way for Mexico to lift retaliatory tariffs of more than $2 billion on U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products. Transportation officials also say the agreement calls for Mexico to suspend half of the retaliatory tariffs within 10 days and eliminate the rest when full cross-border traffic begins. The tariffs were imposed more than two years ago.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the accords, saying they will make the U.S.-Mexico border more efficient and enhance U.S. competitiveness.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a statement criticizing the accords with Mexico. The trade association said the 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.

As part of the program, electronic monitoring systems will track the number of hours the Mexican trucks are in service. The truckers' driving records will also be reviewed. Additionally, drivers will have to pass drug tests and assessments of their English language and U.S. traffic sign-reading skills. Mexico has the authority to demand the same of U.S. truck drivers entering its territory.