Mexico Trucking Debate in Congress Borders on Discrimination

July 26, 2001
Warning that debate over the Mexican truck issue is verging on "borderline discrimination," Sen Pete Domenici (R-NM) said July 24 that Congress and the

Warning that debate over the Mexican truck issue is verging on "borderline discrimination," Sen Pete Domenici (R-NM) said July 24 that Congress and the Bush administration should reach a compromise on Mexican trucking, or risk spoiling a new relationship with Mexico. Domenici addressed the Senate on proposed policies within the 2002 Transportation Appropriations Bill dealing with Mexican truck access to United States highways and safety on American highways, as required in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"The United States should be quite pleased that we have a new relationship growing between Mexico, primarily because of the refreshing new attitude of President Vicente Fox," Domenici said. "These are exciting times on the border as the United States and Mexico set a new agenda on growth, environmental and health improvements and worker permits. "We hear a litany of charges that Mexican trucks are unsafe, that they lack insurance, that they will be a menace to the American public. I suggest that we better be careful. The presentation of some of these arguments appear to me to be borderline discrimination against Mexican enterprise, and that could spoil our improving relations."

Domenici continued working with Senate colleagues and administration officials on a possible resolution that would allow Mexican motor carriers greater access to US interior. The Bush administration has issued veto threats against House-passed language and Senate provisions that would restrict Mexican truck travel in the United States beyond the current 20-mile boundary. It also issued a similar threat against provisions included in the committee-passed Senate bill now being debated.

The Senate bill currently includes a provision from Senator Patty Murray (D-WA.) barring the use of funds to process applications for Mexican trucks to operate in the United States beyond the US-Mexico border area until a number of strict requirements are met. Domenici finds fault with the general presumptions of guilt inherent in these provisions. "We must find a way to resolve our concerns about safety and affirm that Mexico is an equal partner in NAFTA with the United States and Canada. Now is the time to fix this situation," he said.

The Unites States could soon face fines of $1.0 billion or more annually if it fails to adhere to NAFTA provisions allowing Mexican trucks to travel into the United States by January 1, 2002. A NAFTA arbitration panel has ruled that current US policy violates NAFTA. The US will face fines until it complies with the terms of the trade agreement. Under NAFTA, Mexican trucks were to have complete access to the United States this January, but the Clinton Administration cited safety concerns and refused to fully implement NAFTA or prepare for eventual compliance by the statutory deadline.