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Truck YOU!

17 March 2009

From The (Mexico City) News:

The government announced Monday it will increase tariffs on about 90 U.S. products in retaliation for last week’s decision to cancel a pilot program that allowed some Mexican trucks to transport goods within the United States.

Economy Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Mateos said the U.S. decision violates a provision of NAFTA that was supposed to have opened cross-border trucking years ago.

The measure will affect about $2.4 billion in trade and includes 90 agricultural and industrial products from 40 U.S. states.

The secretariat did not name the products or specify the amount by which import tariffs will increase.

U.S. wheat, beef, rice and bean exports to Mexico are likely targets of the retaliatory duties, Republican lawmakers said on Monday according to Reuters.

“Because Congress has terminated the pilot program in violation of our NAFTA obligations, Mexico has announced that it will retaliate against us, as it is entitled to do, by increasing duties on $2.4 billion of U.S. exports of key commodities like wheat, beans, beef, and rice,” Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in statement…

As Porter Corn, at Mexico Trucker (much more than a trucker’s website, and essential reading for anyone dealing with cross-border trade issues) has been pointing out for a very long time, this has absolutely nothing to do with safety or reliability (the big rigs on U.S. roads are built in Mexico and Mexican truckers face stricter safty regulations than in their counterparts in the U.S.), English-language proficiency (Mexican drivers have to take an English-comprehension test, U.S. drivers don’t), or any of the other rationales used to get around the U.S. NAFTA obligations to promote free commerce. All this program said was that Mexican drivers did not have to “dead-head” back to Mexico. In other words, if they drove steel from Monterrey to Kansas City, they could bring something back, not wasting energy, time and money driving an empty rig.

The extreme, lunatic right wing tried to claim this created pockets of Mexican sovereignty in the United States or allow Mexican truckers to travel wherever they wanted in the U.S. (wrong… it’s an application of the same Cabotage Laws that have existed since the end of the Napoleonic Wars for ships sailing into foreign ports applied to trucks crossing land borders) or … whispering that it was a secret plot to infiltrate foreigners into the U.S. (though, if noticed, a lot of U.S. truckers are immigrants, and U.S. trucking companies recruit immigrants).

The weird mixture of right-wing racism and populism, coupled with the Teamsters’ Union’s ham-handed attempts to protect jobs are going to seriously damage U.S. agriculture, making a bad economic situation north of the border worse. If there is any “silver lining” in all this, it is that Mexican farmers will get a little breathing room for this season, as Mexican food processors are forced to cancel contracts from corporate agricultural suppliers.

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