“Politically Expedient Protectionism” – More support for the Cross Border Pilot Program

Congress deals blow to trade with reversal on Mexican trucks

Does the 110th Congress believe it must honor the nation’s treaty obligations? Apparently not. The House voted 395-18 Tuesday to close the southern border to Mexican long-haul trucks, effectively reneging on the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement’s promise to give Mexican truckers full access to U.S. highways.

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., would end a demonstration program launched last year to show that Mexican trucks could safely navigate U.S. roads. It’s just the latest of many attempts to erase this treaty obligation. Congressional Democrats, at the behest of the politically powerful Teamsters union and some environmental groups, led this years-long effort to deny Mexican trucks access to U.S. roads initially. With an election on the near horizon, most House Republicans joined them for Tuesday’s vote.

It is shameful that House members would vote by such a wide margin to ignore this treaty obligation. The vote was seen as politically expedient, no doubt. Trade protectionism generally plays well during uncertain economic times, and that’s what this political opposition to NAFTA’s provision regarding Mexican trucks is all about — protecting U.S. truckers from foreign competition.

Fear of competition is what motivates opponents, not safety or environmental concerns. Mexican long-haul trucks crossing the border have to meet the same safety and pollution standards as U.S. trucks. Mexican trucks have long been allowed to operate up to 20 miles north of the border. A comprehensive review of thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety inspection reports by a University of Texas researcher found that Mexican trucks crossing into the United States had no more safety violations than U.S. trucks.

The protectionist sentiment that drives this effort to keep long-haul Mexican trucks off U.S. roads seems to be on the rise, and that’s very concerning. Trade is one of the few bright spots in the national economy. Any action that reduces it will prove costly.

Certainly, restricting Mexican truckers’ access to U.S. highways carries a cost. American consumers have paid a high price — perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars annually — for the practice of forcing Mexican trucks to transfer their loads to U.S. trucks just north of the border. Mexican citizens have paid a higher cost for Congress’ failure to honor this treaty obligation — more than $2 billion over the past decade, by some estimates.

Trade between Mexico and the United States increased from $81 billion in 1993, the year NAFTA was approved, to $332 billion in 2006. Reneging on NAFTA’s promise to give Mexican long-haul trucks access to U.S. highways would only serve to slow this bilateral trade, while bringing into question the worth of this nation’s word.

This is another of the increasing editorials in favor of the Cross Border Pilot Program and this one especially nails it! Political expediency during an election year. I can’t wait to see how the Senate reacts once the November elections are over, and there is no perceived threat to their gravy train.