Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he expects to have an agreement to revive cross-border trucking between the U.S. and Mexico by the middle of the year after sending U.S. officials to Mexico on Monday to present the department’s plan to the government there.
“We will have a final agreement by the middle of the year,” LaHood said at the SMC3 annual winter meeting in Atlanta.
“A team is in Mexico to take a hard look at our proposal, flesh it out and come up with a full proposal to help us restart this program,” he told the trucking industry group.
“There is real pent-up demand on the Mexican side and certainly from our side to get this done and get a final plan,” LaHood said.
The Obama administration suspended the controversial program launched in the Bush administration to allow Mexican trucks to carry goods into the United States two years ago. The decision was applauded by organized labor, which says the Mexican truckers are not subject to the same oversight as American truckers, but prompted a sharp backlash from Mexico City.
The Mexican government slapped more than $2 billion in tariffs on U.S. products, saying the program’s suspension violated the North American Free Trade Agreement. U.S. exporters, particularly agricultural shippers, say their business is being held hostage to the dispute.
LaHood said he met recently with Teamsters union General President James P. Hoffa but won no endorsement for a compromise with Mexico. “He hates this program. But this is the law and it’s part of NAFTA and we have to do it,” Lahood said.
He did not say whether the U.S. was asking Mexico for any special actions to resume the program beyond lifting the tariffs that have “had a huge impact” on agriculture shippers. “Once we reach a final compromise with Mexico, the plan would be to lift these tariffs,” he said.