Mexican Truckers Asks Senate to Suspend Trucking Provisions in North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta)
Mexico's largest trucking-industry organization (Camara Nacional del Autotransporte de Carga, CANACAR) has asked the Mexican government to suspend the section in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that deals with truck access between the US and Mexico.
By seeking a cancellation of this section of NAFTA, Mexico could block all US trucks from entering into the country, CANACAR officials said.
The Mexican trucking industry says suspending the NAFTA trucking regulations would be one of the most effective retaliatory actions against the US government for failing to comply with the terms of NAFTA, which had guaranteed that Mexican truck drivers would have access to US roads by 2000.
US trucks are currently not allowed to transit on Mexican roads, but the suspension of this section of NAFTA would block the scheduled opening of Mexican roads to US trucks.
"The majority of people in the United States don't want Mexican trucks to go there, and we told our president that we don't want to go, either," said CANACAR president Manuel Gomez. "Nor are we interested in having US trucks come to Mexico."
Some US trucking companies like Schneider National and Celadon do have a presence in Mexico, having acquired shares in Mexican freight companies. But these operations handle shipments of Mexican goods into the US and not exports of US products into Mexico (see SourceMex, 2000-11-01).
Former US President Bill Clinton's administration delayed implementation of the provision allowing Mexican trucks to enter the US, citing concerns about the safety of Mexican trucks (see SourceMex, 1994-02-23 and 1996-01-17).
Mexico then requested a NAFTA dispute-resolution panel, which ruled in late 2000 that the US must allow Mexican truck drivers to operate on US roads (see SourceMex, 2000-12-06).
Earlier this year, President George W. Bush agreed to comply with the NAFTA panel's ruling, promising access to Mexican trucks as long as they complied with US safety guidelines (see SourceMex, 2001-02-14 and 2001-05-09).
Votes in US Congress delay opening of US border
But Bush's efforts to open up US roads to Mexican trucks were thwarted by the US Congress.
In late June, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the annual transportation appropriations bill, which would forbid US transportation officials from processing applications for Mexican freight haulers to operate throughout the US. The amendment, promoted by House Democrats, gained sufficient votes from Republicans to pass by a lopsided margin of 285- 143.
"NAFTA is a trade agreement, not a suicide pact," said Rep. David Obey (D-WI). "We are not required to allow unsafe trucks on America's highways."
The House measure was sent to the Senate, where, after a bitter fight, it appeared close to approval with the support of all 50 Democrats, 19 Republicans, and one independent.
After Senate approval, the measure must be considered by a House-Senate conference committee, where passage is likely.
The near certain approval has led Bush to threaten to veto the entire transportation appropriations bill.
Administration officials and Senate Republicans accused Democrats in both houses of Congress of taking "anti-Hispanic" stances by blocking access for Mexican trucks to US roads.
"It bothers me that there's an anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic, anti-NAFTA attitude among Democrats, that says, 'We don't really want Mexican trucks to come to this country,'" Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) said in a written statement.
Anticipating the strong resistance in Congress, the Department of Transportation (DOT) in mid-July announced tighter guidelines for Mexican trucks than those the Bush administration originally unveiled in May. The tighter guidelines include an increase in the number of inspectors and frequency of inspections. …