Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Legislation Will Stop Mexican Truckers at the Border

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US Legislation Will Stop Mexican Truckers at the Border

Article excerpt

Cross-border commerce hit another red light late Tuesday when the Senate eliminated a pilot program that allowed some Mexican companies to ship goods deep into the United States.

The $410 billion spending bill approved by senators Tuesday and scheduled to be signed by President Obama Wednesday eliminated funding for the controversial program and could reinforce concerns that the US is turning to protectionism as it fights its deepest recession in decades.

Juan Carlos Velasco Perez, a Mexican lawmaker with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, says the Senate action was "lamentable," but "not surprising."

"The US government puts a lot of limits on our trucks in the border states so they can't get in," says Mr. Velasco Perez, who is a member of the Transportation Committee in the lower house of Mexico's Congress.

He said his party would meet with Mexican trucking organizations to discuss pushing through "reciprocal measures." In statements to the press last week, Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the US, labeled the measure "protectionism" and threatened to take retaliatory action.

'Buy American' push

The move to bar Mexican trucks follows the "Buy American" provision in the $787 billion stimulus bill approved by Congress Feb. 18, which could require stimulus spending to go to US-made products. The provision has been criticized in Latin America and Canada, and analysts say rising protectionist sentiment could hurt global economic recovery efforts.

While free-trade advocates fear the creation of new trade barriers, the Mexican truck impasse is well over a decade old.

US authorities have repeatedly delayed implementation of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) rules that would have granted Mexican truckers access to border states in 1995 and nationwide in 2000. The US has refused to budge even following the decision of a NAFTA arbitration panel in 2001, which ruled that the US is required to grant access.

Now, with the economy faltering and fewer trucks lined up at border checkpoints, it's unclear when - or if - the issue will finally be resolved.

"If there was a great demand, and an economic boom, then maybe [this would get fixed]," says Gustavo Del Castillo Vera, a researcher for the College of the Northern Border in Tijuana. …

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