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U.S. Opens Border to First Mexican Trucks in 25 Years

Bloomberg | February 23, 2007
Thomas Black

Mexican trucks will be allowed to make deliveries beyond U.S. border areas for the first time in 25 years, in a test announced by U.S. and Mexican officials.

The one-year program will permit 100 Mexican transportation companies to carry cargo beyond 25-mile border zones, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said in a statement today.

The agreement eliminates procedures that since 1982 have required Mexican trucks to transfer cargo going beyond the border zone to a U.S. carrier. American trucks, which face similar restrictions by Mexico, are to be included in the cross- border program later.

``Through this new pilot program, we are finding a better way to do business with one of this nation's largest trading partners,'' Peters said at the border city of El Paso, Texas.

Mexico ranks third in trade with the U.S., behind Canada and China. U.S.-Mexico trade rose 14 percent last year to $332 billion. Mexico exported $198 billion in goods to the U.S., with more than 80 percent shipped by truck.

Under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican and U.S. trucks were to gain access to each other's countries by the end of 1995. President Bill Clinton blocked the cross-border trucking, citing concerns that Mexican trucks weren't safe.

The Mexican government ``will begin to consider'' granting permits for U.S. trucks to operate in Mexico, the statement said.

U.S. Inspections

Mexican trucks that will operate in the U.S. must pass a U.S. Transportation Department safety inspection before entering the country. The trucks will be required to have insurance and the drivers must meet license requirements. Salaries of Mexican truck drivers are lower than their U.S. counterparts.

James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the second-largest U.S. union, said the agreement will make American highways unsafe.

``They are playing a game of Russian roulette on America's highways,'' Hoffa said in an e-mailed statement.

The American Trucking Associations, an industry trade group, said in a statement that the pilot program ``recognized the need to improve efficiency at the border.''

Establishment of U.S. truck inspections in Mexico, announced yesterday by Peters, marked the last of 22 requirements that Congress mandated in 2001.

``Safety is the number-one priority and strict U.S. safety standards won't change,'' U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Black in Monterrey at tblack@bloomberg.net .



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