It doesn’t take long for shortsighted politicians to initiate a market-closing trade war. Neither does it take long for the consequences of a trade dispute to hit home. Ask Washington growers.
It’s only been a few weeks since the Democrat-controlled Congress and Obama administration caved to the Teamsters union and closed the southern border to long-haul Mexican trucks. Mexico quickly retaliated with punishing tariffs on 89 U.S. products, including such Northwest exports as wine, onions, pears, potatoes and Christmas trees. The tariffs’ impact on this trade-dependent state was immediate. By Friday, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire had seen enough. She fired off a letter pleading with the Obama administration to quickly fix the mess it and the 110th Congress made of a once profitable trading relationship.
The administration can resolve this dispute unilaterally, if it chooses. President Obama could immediately restart the trucking pilot program that was shut down in March, once again allowing Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways. That’s what should be done. That’s what the United States promised to do when it signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Mexican long-haul trucks were supposed to have full access to U.S. highways by 2000, but a very influential Teamsters union and other opponents of free trade managed for years to block implementation of that treaty provision. They and their congressional allies argued that Mexican trucks weren’t safe, though all available evidence says otherwise. Indeed, the 18-month trucking program allowing a limited number of Mexican trucks access to U.S. roads showed that concern to be baseless. Mexican trucks crossed into the United States at least 46,000 times during that program without one significant incident.
No, safety isn’t what motivates this program’s opponents. For Teamsters, it’s a matter of protecting U.S. truckers against foreign competition. For members of Congress and the administration, it’s a matter of pleasing an influential union constituency. The cost of their pandering is too high to tolerate.
Reneging on NAFTA’s promise to give Mexican truckers access to U.S. roads justifies Mexico’s punitive tariffs which, by some estimates, could cost the United States more than 40,000 jobs. In Washington, it jeopardizes agricultural exports valued at $87 million last year alone. Pear growers in the state lost exports of about 25 percent on last year’s refrigerated crop and could see the entire Mexican market disappear in the upcoming export season, according to Associated Press writer Shannon Dininny.
The Mexican market for pears, frozen potatoes and other produce could disappear for a very long time, if the administration fails to act quickly. Dininny reports that Canadian potato growers are beginning to replace U.S. exports to Mexico and pear growers in Argentina and Chile are beginning to take over the U.S. market there. In her letter to the administration, Gregoire warned that there is “no guarantee that Mexican importers will resume their earlier trade relationship with our producers.” Unfortunately, she is right. The damage from this protectionist action could continue long after it is corrected. The sooner it is set right, the better.
Way to go Hoffa and Spencer! You speak for truckers my ass! You promote your own selfish self interests and to hell with the truckers who are losing freight because of your xenophobic protectionist agenda!
35 years in the trucking business and living in Mexico for the past 15 years, make me uniquely qualified to offer my insight and opinion into the Mexican trucking industry and other border issues. A contributor to SiriuxXM Road Dog Channel 106 and to the award winning Lockridge Report, Mexico Trucker Online continues to publish the unvarnished truth about the subjects we cover.