President Barack Obama yesterday in Washington received his Mexican counterpart President Felipe Calderón in the fifth such encounter between the heads of state since 2009. Following the meeting, the leaders announced efforts to revive a program for the entry of Mexican commercial trucks into the United States. The controversial program, first launched in 2007, was cancelled in 2009 after loud protests by the U.S. trucking industry.
The issue has been a top priority for the Calderón administration, which claimed the ban on Mexican trucks’ entry was a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Shortly after the ban, Mexico imposed tariffs on 99 products of U.S. origin that ranged from pork, to chewing gum and pistachios. President Obama stated after the meeting that he would consult with Congress to settle the issue with Mexico and “strengthen the security of the passing trucks, lift tariffs (Mexican) of several billion dollars on American goods and create jobs on both sides of the border”.
Congressional approval could come as early as this summer. It would form another pilot program in exchange for a gradual cancellation of all of Mexico’s punitive tariffs. Mexican truckers would need to meet several requirements, such as passing English and safety tests and proving that their trucks meet designated environmental standards. Under the proposed agreement, according to the White House, Mexico would reduce the tariffs by 50 percent at the signing of an agreement and suspend the remaining 50 percent when the first Mexican carrier is granted operating authority under the program.