By Jerome R. Corsi, Ph.D.
Despite drug war, Obama wants long-haul rigs in U.S. without constraints
Just in case you thought the North American Union was dead and gone - here come the Mexican trucks, all over again.
It's mind-boggling, but despite the drug war raging uncontrolled in Mexico, the Obama administration is planning to roll out yet another plan to let Mexican trucks roll without constraints on highways throughout the U.S.
TheTrucker.com, a trucking industry magazine, warned last month that the Department of Transportation has been patiently waiting until after the November midterm elections to unveil a proposal DOT expects to resolve the Mexican truck controversy.
Ironically, the re-election of Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, despite the expenditure of considerable Republican resources to defeat him, leaves in place an important congressional watchdog opposed to opening our borders to Mexican trucks without first putting in place important safety guidelines.
Mexico demands Mexican trucks in U.S.
TheTrucker.com reported that a Mexican official at a Washington luncheon held on Oct. 15 said Mexico would not accept another pilot program.
"If you put in place a demonstration project similar to what we had, it can begin, but it can be defunded at any time," said Jose Luis Paz Vega, head of the NAFTA office at the Mexican embassy in Washington, at the Oct. 15 luncheon. "Mexico is not willing to take that anymore. We need a program that is permanent, that has certainty, and complies with NAFTA. And we're not willing to accept anything less than that."
In March 2009, President Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill into law, along with the provisions ending the Department of Transportation's Mexican truck demonstration project.
One day after signing the omnibus spending bill, Obama instructed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to work with Congress, DOT, the State Department and Mexican officials to come up with legislation to create "a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns" of Congress and the U.S. under NAFTA.
The Obama administration's determination to see Mexican long-haul rigs roll throughout the United States remains a slap in the face for labor unions such as the Teamsters who supported candidate Obama in the 2008 presidential election and the Democrats in the 2008 midterm elections, as Obama continues to rescind on his 2008 campaign promise he would as president renegotiate NAFTA to preserve U.S. jobs.
Reintroducing a Mexican truck plan will be yet another blow to many Democrats in Congress, including retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., as well as DeFazio, D-Ore., both of whom have fought hard since the Bush administration to have language inserted into legislation stopping the DOT Mexican truck demonstration project out of concerns that Mexican trucks do not conform with U.S. safety regulations.
Mexico retaliated with tariffs
In response to ending the Mexican truck demonstration project in March 2009, Mexico increased tariffs on some 90 U.S. products in a move making clear Mexico did not intend to lose the trucking war under NAFTA.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has claimed the Obama administration was experiencing heavy pressure from U.S. businesses negatively impacted by Mexico's tariffs. He told reporters that Mexico's retaliation has had "an enormous impact."
"It is really putting a huge economic stress on the producers," he said, arguing the tariffs had placed an additional $2.4 billion cost on U.S. exporters.
Are Mexican trucks safe?
Critics point out that Mexico has no real system of driver training, licensing, drug testing, driver physical requirements, safety inspection, cargo latching security, HazMat control or brake standards that match comparable U.S. standards.
Concerns are raised that Mexico's compliance with the U.S. Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance standards will be met by Mexican inspectors taking bribes, the typical method used in Mexico to get around onerous government regulations.
The Mexican truck issue was rancorous during the last two years of the Bush administration as Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters fought off repeated efforts by Congress to confine Mexican trucks to a narrow 20-mile commercial area north of the southern border.
WND reported that after the DOT Mexican truck demonstration project had begun, an examination of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration database revealed hundreds of safety violations by Mexican long-haul rigs rolling on U.S. roads under the project.
The contention of opponents to the Mexican truck demonstration project has been that Mexican trucks and truck drivers do not reliably meet U.S. standards.
WND also reported that in an argumentative Senate hearing in March 2008, North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan in tight questioning got Peters to admit that Mexican drivers were being designated at the border as "proficient in English" even though they could explain U.S. traffic signs only in Spanish.
In the tense hearing, Dorgan accused Peters of being "arrogant" and in reckless disregard of a congressional vote to stop the Mexican trucking demonstration project by taking funds away.
As WND reported, opposition in the House was led by Rep. DeFazio, who in Sept. 2007 accused the Bush administration of having a "stealth plan" to allow Mexican long-haul rigs on U.S. roads.
"This administration [of President George W. Bush] is hell-bent on opening our borders," DeFazio then said, "but has failed to require that Mexican drivers and trucks meet the same safety and security standards as U.S. drivers and trucks."
Previously, Peters had argued the wording of the Dorgan amendment did not prohibit the Transportation Department from stopping a Mexican truck demonstration project that DOT has already begun, even if the measure prohibited DOT from starting any new Mexican truck demonstration project.