Magazine article The American Conservative

Unsafe at Any Speed

Magazine article The American Conservative

Unsafe at Any Speed

Article excerpt

Once again, the new administration has demonstrated its conviction that fidelity to free-trade dogma trumps all other concerns, including border security, highway

safety, and the interests of American labor. The recent omnibus budget bill included a provision stripping all funding for a pilot program started in 2007 to permit Mexican trucks to travel throughout the United States in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement. While President Obama signed the bill, he has since bowed to* domestic criticism and retaliatory Mexican tariffs, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has promised to revive an alternative version of the program.

Under a rule established by the Clinton administration in 1995, Mexican trucks had been limited to within 25 miles of the border, where their cargo had to be transferred to American trucks for delivery throughout the rest of the country. The Mexican government has resented this restriction and lobbied to end it, arguing that NAFTA requires full access to the U.S. market The Bush administration, always keen to satisfy requests from south of the border, won support for a trial run at expanding Mexican trucking access over the strenuous objections of pro-labor Democrats and conservative dissenters such as Duncan Hunter and Ron Paul.

Despite the latter's opposition to the pilot program in the past neither voted for the larger spending bill to which the defunding provision was attached. The responsibility for temporarily killing the program rested primarily with North Dakota Democratic senator Byron Dorgan, who has distinguished himself as a leading critic of our trade policies and was one of the Democratic senators instrumental in quashing "comprehensive immigration reform." In the 111th Congress, Dorgan has many new Blue Dog and moderate Democratic allies ready to take advantage of the electorate's increasing interest in economic populist measures. This could help the majority head off a midterm backlash against the big-spending fiscal legislation they have been backing.

Beyond the basic concerns about highway safety and ensuring that Mexican trucks meet regulatory standards required of American trucks, providing unfettered admission to the United States will undermine our efforts to combat drug and human trafficking. …

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