Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mexican Freight Trucks May Be Permitted To Cross The US Border

Obama Regime to Examine Transit Programme
Shipping News Feature

US – MEXICO - On a day when all talk seems to be of anti trust legislation and Competition Commission enquiries it seems apt to mention the word which chills the heart of all those involved in the freight and shipping industry, the ‘P’ word, Protectionism, which lurks unbidden in the consciousness of truckers and bulk and container lines alike.

To those of us in other parts of the world the American attitude has always seemed something of an enigma. Many in the USA seem able to maintain ambivalence toward the subject seemingly without any sense of irony. The difficulties in trade with China are well documented but what is less well known is the take on trucks which emanate from Mexico, a poorer neighbour than the more affluent community northward in Canada.

Mexican trailers loaded with goods are allowed passage into the US. This rule however does not apply to the drivers and their trucks. Currently trailers are dropped at the border for Customs examination then hauled north by US trucking companies.

In March last year Mexico announced additional tariffs on many US goods in retaliation for the recent suspension of funds by Washington to finance a test programme to allow certain Mexican companies to continue into the States. Now it seems that a move is on the cards to reinstate the scheme. As long ago as 1992 the US signed the North American Free Trade Agreement which should have allowed access to US highways by the Mexicans within a maximum of three years along with Canadian truckers.

Objections from the Teamsters Union and organised lobbyists confined the vehicles to border stops until George Bush announced the test scheme in 2007 when it seemed access would be permitted. Objectors continued to state Mexican trucks were unsafe whilst the reply was that all vehicles entering the US were thoroughly inspected and the practice was a clear violation of the NAFTA scheme. In August 2007 the Court of Appeal in San Francisco declared a petition to the Court by the Teamsters, the Sierra Club and consumer group Public Citizen to be unwarranted which should have led to a lifting of the vehicle ban if funding had not been withdrawn by Congress in March 2009.

Now, in the face of persistent Mexican objections, the Obama administration is working with Congress to thrash out a deal which will allow free cross border passage to all legal vehicles. US Trade Representative Ron Kirk said yesterday in a meeting with Mexico’s Minister of the Economy:

"President Obama has made it plain that we would like to see this issue over the ability of Mexican trucks to move freely throughout the U.S. resolved as soon and as thoughtfully as possible.

"With the offending language now being removed from the most recent appropriations bill, we have at least the green light to go forward and start those consultations with Congress and other interested parties”

Mexican freight hauliers wait, given the history of the dispute probably more in hope than expectation.