U.S. President Barack Obama Proposes Plan to Restart Negotiations on Truck Dispute with Mexico

Article excerpt

The unresolved dispute between Mexico and the US regarding truck access resurfaced in early 2011, with the two countries optimistic that they can finally reach an agreement on a dispute that has hampered bilateral trade relations for more than a decade. The promise of a resolution came in a document released by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in early January with proposals to revive a pilot program cancelled in 2009. The US decision prompted the Mexican government to suspend new retaliatory tariffs against US products, although existing sanctions will remain in place until a full agreement is reached.

The pilot program, launched in 2007 during the administration of ex-US President George W. Bush, created strict conditions by which Mexican truck drivers would be allowed to transport goods on US highways SourceMex, Feb. 28, 2007. The program, which was never fully implemented, was ended in March 2009, after the US Congress removed funding because of concerns that safety problems were not being adequately addressed SourceMex, March 11, 2009.

Mexican and US officials are confident that this time they can finally move forward on negotiating a solution to the controversy. Under terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US agreed to allow full access to Mexican trucks by Jan. 1, 2000. But ex-US President Bill Clinton reneged on that commitment after deciding that other considerations like safety and environmental standards superseded US compliance with provisions in the accord SourceMex, Jan. 19, 2000.

US proposal enhances security, training requirements

The DOT plan released in January seeks to reopen negotiations with Mexico while also addressing some of the issues that led to cancellation of the program. The proposal places a high priority on safety, requiring that all information provided by participating Mexican drivers be reviewed by both the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Mexican truckers and their companies must also receive a Pre-Authority Safety Audit (PASA). The review would contain details of a carrier's safety record and driver's record, compliance with emissions standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a review of the carrier's accidents, convictions, and inspections in Mexico. Finally, Mexican drivers must also pass an English-language-proficiency exam and a US-traffic-laws exam (conducted in English) and submit evidence of financial responsibility (insurance) to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). …