Mexico has announced a decision to increase tariffs on 90 U.S. products in retaliation for a congressional decision last week to remove the funds for the Department of Transportation’s Mexican truck demonstration project, making it clear the NAFTA trucking is by no means finished.
WND reported one day after signing the $410 billion omnibus funding bill into law, along with its provisions ending the DOT Mexican truck demonstration projects, President Obama instructed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to work with Congress, the DOT, the state department and Mexican officials to come up with legislation to create “a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns” of Congress under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
Then the Mexican Economy Department told a news conference in Mexico City that the new tariffs will affect about $2.4 billion in trade, impacting 90 agricultural and industrial products exported to Mexico from some 40 U.S. cities, according to the Associated Press.
The Teamsters estimate the U.S. government spent $500 million on the Mexican truck pilot program, which began in September 2007.
With the Obama administration likely to push forward to meet Mexico’s demands before new tariffs are imposed, battle lines appear once again to be forming along lines of determining whether or not Mexican trucks and truck drivers will be able to comply with U.S. standards.
The Mexican truck issue became rancorous over the past two years as Bush administration Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters fought off repeated efforts by Congress to confine Mexican trucks to a narrow 20-mile-wide commercial area north of the southern border.
WND reported that after the truck project began, an examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database revealed hundreds of safety violations by Mexican long-haul rigs on U.S. roads.
The contention of opponents has been that Mexican trucks and truck drivers do not reliably meet U.S. standards.
As WND reported, in a contentious Senate hearing last March, Dorgan got Peters to admit that Mexican drivers were being designated at the border as “proficient in English” even though they could explain U.S. traffic signs only in Spanish.
Obama backtracking on NAFTA promises?
The administration’s determination to open the U.S. to Mexican trucks raises questions about whether Obama intends to fulfill campaign promises to renegotiate NAFTA to get provisions more favorable to American workers and jobs.
During the presidential campaign, top Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, an economics professor at the University of Chicago business school, stirred controversy after reporters learned he traveled to Canada to reassure Canadians that Obama’s harsh words about NAFTA were just campaign rhetoric.
Now, Goolsbee has joined the Obama administration, having taken a leave of absence from the University of Chicago after Obama appointed him chief economist and staff director of the newly created Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board, chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker.
Obama also appointed Goolsbee to the Council of Economic Advisors, or CEA, which is charged with assisting in the development of White House economic policy.