US Trade Representative Says Mexican Trucks May Return To US

(Dow Jones)   The Obama administration has taken the first step toward renewing a pilot program that allows Mexican truckers to operate within the U.S., as stipulated in the North American Free Trade Agreement, but still must work with Congress on fashioning a new program, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Tuesday.

President Obama has made it plain that we would like to see this issue over the ability of Mexican trucks to move freely throughout the U.S. resolved as soon and as thoughtfully as possible,” Kirk said at a news conference with Mexican Economy Minister Gerardo Ruiz.

In the 2009 appropriations bill, the U.S. Congress blocked funding for the pilot program, but the Obama administration persuaded legislators to consider a reworked program.

“With the offending language now being removed from the most recent appropriations bill, we have at least the green light to go forward and start those consultations with Congress” and other interested parties, Kirk said.

Mexico would be consulted throughout the process, he added.

Ruiz didn’t comment on the trucking ban, which prompted Mexico to apply retaliatory tariffs against some U.S. goods. He said that with about $400 billion a year in bilateral trade between Mexico and the U.S., there are bound to be some problems.

A pilot program had allowed a small number of Mexican truckers to carry goods directly to U.S. delivery points, rather than dropping their trailers at the U.S.-Mexico border where U.S. truckers pick them up.

Trucking groups in the U.S. have said the Mexican trucks aren’t safe. Mexico says the vehicles are regularly inspected at the border, and that the violation of the Nafta trade agreement amounts to U.S. protectionism.

-By Laurence Iliff, Dow Jones Newswires; (52-55) 5980-5184, laurence.iliff@

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