U.S. to Resolve Truck Dispute, Clinton Tells Mexican Officials
By Sean McNally, Senior Reporter
This story appears in the March 30 print edition of Transport Topics.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States is “working very hard to achieve a resolution” to a trade dispute that led to Mexico imposing tariffs on U.S. goods valued at more than $2 billion after President Obama signed a law ending a cross-border trucking plan.
Clinton spoke at a press conference during her visit last week to Mexico, where she met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, ahead of President Obama’s trip there planned for April.
After meeting with Clinton, Espinosa said, “Both governments have expressed a clear political will to work together to find a solution that will benefit both countries and that will allow us to comply with the obligations that we have accepted” under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Also last week, in Washington, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the administration “soon” would have a proposal to reopen the border to Mexican trucks.
The Obama administration considers these issues as truckers and shippers begin to feel the effects of retaliatory tariffs Mexico slapped on nearly 90 U.S. products ranging from frozen potatoes to Christmas trees and cell phones.
LaHood said the administration would “seek Congress’ approval” for a new program, but that recent meetings with lawmakers were “a mixed bag.” Congress included a provision in its 2009 appropriations bill that prevented the Department of Transportation from operating the cross-border trucking program or creating a new one.
In 2001, an arbitration panel ruled that Mexico was entitled to damages in the form of sanctions or tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement because of a 1995 moratorium on Mexican truck deliveries to U.S. destinations imposed by President Clinton.
Mexico’s new 20% tariff on frozen processed potatoes was one of the products that hit trucking especially hard. According to the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. exported roughly $78 million worth of frozen potatoes last year, making it among the most heavily traded commodities subject to the new tariff.
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