I've been writing about Congress's eagerness to violate U.S. treaty commitments by banning Mexican trucks from U.S. roads (most recently here). It's gotten precious little attention in the U.S. press, but folks in Mexico are understandably angry that Congress voted without debate to renege on our NAFTA obligation - without even acknowledging that our own government says that Mexican trucks and truckers are as safe as those of the U.S.
Yesterday Barack Obama signed the omnibus bill, putting us formally out of compliance and giving Mexico an opening to retaliate against U.S. exports to Mexico. But just as he did with his signing statement, Obama put his hypocrisy on display by telling the Mexican government to negotiate with Congress over a replacement program!
An 18-month-old pilot program that allowed a few Mexican trucks beyond a border buffer zone died when President Barack Obama signed a sweeping $410 billion government spending bill on Wednesday. The bill barred spending on the pilot program.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Debbie Mesloh, said Obama has told the office to work with Congress, the Transportation and State departments and Mexican officials to come up with legislation to create "a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns" of Congress and U.S. commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement...
Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, cheered the end of the truck program.
"I am pleased that Congress has reclaimed its ability to have some bearing on the obligations contained in the surface transportation provisions of NAFTA and has voted for this step forward for highway safety," Oberstar said.
The Mexican government has protested the trucks ban, and prohibits U.S. trucks from driving far into Mexico. It could take additional retaliatory steps, such as raising tariffs on U.S. goods. The administration's announcement Wednesday did not comfort Mexican officials.
"Mexico still believes that the United States' noncompliance on this issue, more than 14 years overdue, is a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement," said Ricardo Alday, embassy spokesman. But he said Mexico is willing to continue to work with Congress and the U.S. "in finding a solution that honors its international obligation."
Mexican officials are familiar enough with the Democrats in Congress to know that they're firmly in the pocket of the Teamsters on this. The negotiating phase is unlikely to take very long - only long enough to show that there's no chance Democrats will reconsider. Then Mexico will proceed to retaliation.
Legislators and businessmen in the transportation sector criticized the decision of the U.S. Senate to block the operation of carriers 'beyond the border commercial zones,' "in rejecting the terms of the trade agreement."
Lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies urged the Mexican government to resort to NAFTA dispute mechanisms to force the removal of what they considered "a form of protectionism."
Mexico is within its treaty rights to retaliate, and they're likely to begin the process before long. Without even addressing the issue, Obama has soured relations with one of our most important trading partners and energy suppliers.