U.S., Canada, Mexico making progress on trade problems

A junk Mexican truck? I don't think so. Image taken at Otay Mesa Pilot of a dual registered W900
A junk Mexican truck? I don't think so. Image taken at Otay Mesa Pilot of a dual registered W900
Canada’s trade minister said Monday that some progress is being made on a nagging trade issue with the United States, while U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said a tangled dispute with Mexico over cross-border trucking and California Christmas trees might resolve itself next year.

Welcoming Cabinet-level Mexican and Canadian trade officials to the city where he served as mayor, Kirk said language that removed funding for the Mexican truck program has been restored in next year’s budget bill.

“We won’t be handcuffed by prohibitory language,” he said.

When the border was closed to 500 U.S.-certified trucks in a pilot program, Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs on 89 U.S. exports ranging from cosmetics and toilet paper to Christmas trees. The truck-and-trade issue put the Obama administration in a political fix because organized labor opposed allowing Mexican trucks an open road north of the border.

Kirk declined to say who is complaining the loudest about the Mexican tariffs. He did say California agriculture groups have made clear to their representatives in Congress just how complicated bilateral issues can get.
Overall U.S. exports to Mexico from March, when the tariffs were imposed, through July were down 28 percent. California table grapes were hit with a 45 percent duty, while wine shippers must now pay a 20 percent tariff.

Meanwhile, Canadian provinces and cities have refused to take bids from U.S. companies until Washington scraps the “Buy America” provision in the stimulus spending package. Under that legislation, cities and states could avail themselves of a share of $260 billion in federal spending only if they bought U.S.-made steel and equipment.

“We’ve made some headway,” Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day said after a bilateral session with Kirk and three-party talks that included Mexican Economy Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Mateos on regional trade issues.
Day said Washington is now reviewing a Canadian proposal containing procurement guidelines that Canada’s provinces and municipalities can live with. Working level talks resume next week, he said. “We think this is workable.”

The three sides agreed to set up ad hoc committees, staffed with senior trade officials, on environmental and labor cooperation.