Mexico truckers assail ban on driving in U.S. : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mexico truckers assail ban on driving in U.S.

By Tessie Borden Republic Mexico City Bureau July 08, 2001

MEXICO CITY - Mexican truckers want their government to raise the stakes in the dispute over their access to U.S. roads by acting definitively to keep American truckers off Mexican roads.

They say they'll go to the Mexican Congress and to President Vicente Fox if they have to.

"We haven't reached our last option," said Manuel Gomez, president of the National Cargo Transport Chamber. "We have just asked for a hearing with the Congress to . . . set out the problem."

The truckers' anger is the result of a June 26 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of an amendment barring the U.S. Department of Transportation from spending money to process Mexican trucking companies' applications to drive in the United States. It was the latest move in a long-running dispute over allowing Mexican trucks on U.S. highways beyond a narrow band spanning the U.S.-Mexican border.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was supposed to allow Mexico access to border states in 1995 and to the rest of the country in 1997. But opponents concerned about driver safety, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, successfully blocked attempts to open the roads until February, when a NAFTA arbitration panel ruled that the United States must let the trucks in or face steep fines.

At the time, President Bush said the United States would abide by the panel's decision, and the Transportation Department began work on guidelines for processing Mexican applications. Those rules drew some protest from CANACAR members.

"The rules they are asking for are different from those for Canada and the United States," Gomez said. "The United States wins again."

But the real ire was not unleashed until the amendment, to a House bill funding DOT operations for fiscal 2002, was introduced and approved in two hours, 285-143. The measure has gone to the Senate. If it passes there, it will go to Bush for signing.

It wasn't just the truckers who were angry at the House vote. Several representatives from border states, including the entire Arizona delegation, voted against the measure. Arizona Gov. Jane Hull, as well as some trade groups, also opposed it.

"The U.S. Congress ratified NAFTA in 1993," said James Ahlers, special assistant to Hull on Mexico policy. "If Congress ratified the treaty, they agreed to abide by the terms of the treaty. This is part of the treaty."

The Border Trade Alliance, an industry group backing free trade, also criticized the vote.

Mexico's economy secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez, said his government might retaliate with blocks on the importation of fructose to Mexico. Still, he said he was talking to U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick and hoped for a negotiated settlement.

"This is not something that President Bush's administration has caused," Derbez said in an interview. "What we will do is speak with him and make him understand that if the Senate were to approve this initiative, we would have no other recourse than to take countermeasures."

Gomez said Derbez has let down Mexican truckers: the United States has refused repeatedly to abide by the treaty, and Mexico should wait no longer for sanctions. And though American trucks cannot now legally drive into Mexico, Mexico should enact a specific ban to get its message across.

Sam Vale, a member of the Border Trade Alliance, said the dispute hurts American competitiveness. Besides, he said, Mexican truckers are not crouching at the border, waiting for the starting gun so they can flood U.S. roads.

"The ones that will try to get into the U.S. are going to be your larger, more sophisticated companies that will be already set up to meet U.S. standards," said Vale, who owns a customs brokerage house, an American trucking company and a minority share in a Mexican trucking company in Rio Grande City, Texas.

He said only a few Mexican trucking companies have been able to put together business relationships that will allow for a back haul - a return shipment from one destination to another. One-way shipments to the United States are not cost-effective for Mexican truckers, he said. The back hauls are essential to their bottom line.

Teamsters have said repeatedly that Mexican truckers keep shabby records and cut corners on safety, and that overworked inspectors cannot catch all violators.

But Vale said the DOT guidelines do not let Mexicans off the hook on safety, and border states have been gearing up for extra inspections.

"The guys are already there at ports of entry," Vale said. "To say there are going to be no inspections is inaccurate."

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-- Martin Thompson (, July 07, 2001


Mexican president says he will ban American trucks if U.S. bans Mexican trucks

The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (August 2, 2001 11:40 p.m. EDT) - Following a vote by the U.S. Senate to impose tough restrictions on the entry of big rigs from Mexico, President Vicente Fox said Thursday that he would bar U.S. trucks until Mexican truckers are allowed on American highways.

At a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Fox spoke more forcefully on the subject than he has before.

"If no agreement is reached, there won't be any Mexican trucks up there, because they don't want them, but there won't be any American trucks down here, either," Fox said.

"There currently aren't any American trucks in Mexico, and there won't be any unless we reach a mutual, equitable and well thought-out agreement on the issue," Fox said.

Mexico has not allowed U.S. trucks to enter Mexican territory since February, when a NAFTA arbitration panel ruled that the United States was violating the treaty, which was supposed to open the two countries up to unrestricted truck traffic.

U.S. officials have delayed that opening based on safety concerns about Mexico's old, ill-maintained trucks, which often carry overweight loads or are driven by untrained drivers.

President Bush wants to allow Mexican trucks, which are currently restricted to a commercial zone that runs up to 20 miles north of the border, to begin delivering international shipments throughout the United States beginning Jan. 1.

But under the bill approved by the visit Wednesday, they could not do so until Mexican trucking companies are audited by visiting U.S. officials; border stations get more inspectors and scales; and insurance, driving and other standards are met.

Mexico's Economy Secretary, Ernesto Derbez, recommended calm following the Senate vote and said the Bush administration assured him it had enough votes to sustain a veto of the Senate bill.

"We are confident in President Bush's commitment," Derbez said, while noting "we will not accept anything that goes back on the agreement," referring to rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement that say Mexican trucks should have been allowed in starting in 1998.

Supporters say the Senate requirements - stricter than those required for truckers from the United States or Canada, the other NAFTA member - are justified because Mexican vehicles are likelier to flunk inspections.

Opponents said some provisions, such as forbidding the shifting of U.S. inspectors to the Mexican border until new ones are trained, were aimed at delaying entry of the trucks for years.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 03, 2001.

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