Another great newspaper switches sides!

As further proof of my opinion that America is finally waking up and looking at the facts of the Mexican Truck issue and questioning the absurd claims made by the opposition,The Arizona Republic joins the ranks of other great newspapers such as The Dallas Morning News and other in coming out in support of the Pilot Program. Good for them. One by one, people and institutions are beginning to emerge from the crap that has inundated them and are beginning to see the truth.

Lift the roadblock

When it comes to Mexico, Congress doesn’t get it.

The failure to pass a comprehensive immigration-reform package was probably the worst omission by elected officials this year.

The insertion of Congress’ nose into the Mexican truck issue shows a similar inability to see over a pile of populist nonsense and do the right thing.

Let’s talk about those trucks.

More than a decade ago, the United States entered the North American Free Trade Agreement, which included a promise to give Mexican and Canadian trucks full access to U.S. roads. Canadian trucks now have it. Mexican trucks don’t.

The U.S. Transportation Department aimed to fix that by launching a yearlong pilot project to allow a limited number of Mexican trucks onto U.S. highways.

The Senate just voted to stop it. The House did the same thing, but the two measures have to be reconciled before they can become law.

Those trucks aren’t safe, opponents wail. The trucks aren’t environmentally correct, they insist.

But Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill says Mexican trucks will be scrutinized more rigorously than U.S. trucks and the impact on safety and the environment will be monitored carefully. What’s more, the plan prohibits Mexican trucks from carrying hazardous materials.

This isn’t about safety or the environment. This is about fear. It is about protectionism. It is about a nasty, counterproductive habit of bashing our southern neighbor.

The Teamsters union, which opposes the plan, asked Congress to block it.

Those sweet little lambs in Congress did just as they were told. It wasn’t just Democrats either. Twenty-five Republican senators voted to stop the program. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl voted against prohibiting the pilot, earning him praise from free-traders and business groups. Arizona’s Sen. John McCain didn’t vote.

The Teamsters should know that a report prepared for the American Trucking Associations found the current national shortage of truck drivers is a limiting factor for many companies. By 2014, the nation will face a shortage of 111,000 truck drivers.

The Sierra Club opposes Mexican trucks on environmental grounds. These champions of the environment should know how the current system of transferring loads at the border contributes to congestion and pollution.

This isn’t just about allowing Mexican trucks on U.S. highways. This is about trade. The agreement also allows U.S. trucks to have access to Mexican highways, creating more opportunity and efficiency in that direction, too.

Limiting trade is costly. The Association of American Chambers of Commerce in Latin America, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, represents more than 80 percent of the U.S. investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. The groups surveyed their members and found that “stalling trade agreements pose the biggest threat to economic growth in Latin America.”

The benefits of truly integrating the economies of Mexico, Canada and the U.S. – and eventually all of the Americas – far outweigh parochial concerns.

Trade with Mexico has gone from $81 billion in 1993 to $332 billion in 2006, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Increases in transportation options and efficiency will keep those numbers growing and help the economies of both countries. Don’t forget, the long-term solution to illegal immigration – that big issue Congress flubbed – is jobs in Mexico.

Congress should not compound its errors. It should stop being a roadblock to free trade.