Protectionism, Bit by Bit, Mile by Mile

By March 5, 2009Labor Unions, Trade

Daniel Griswold, trade expert at Cato, comments:

Buried in the $410 billion catch-all appropriations bill now before the U.S. Senate is a provision that would end a program that has allowed Mexican truck drivers to deliver goods to destinations inside the United States.

A provision in the original North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 was supposed to allow U.S. and Mexican trucking companies to deliver goods in each other’s country. But opposition from the Teamsters union and old-fashioned prejudice against Mexicans has derailed implementation of the provision.

Prejudice is a strong word that implies dark motives behind populism and protectionism. Not sure it helps move the debate forward. “Anti-competition” is another, more identifiable critique. So is “unworthy, unreliable” negotiating partner.

The trouble with the anti-trucking, anti-trade policies being tacked onto an omnibus bill is that it undermines the clear intention of NAFTA and ancillary agreements (as explained by Griswold in this 2007 paper). Congress is sending this message to all potential trade partners (again): “We’ll sign an agreement, yes, but we’ll do everything to undermine its consistent application. So you’re an idiot to trust us.”

Now that’s leadership.

For the text of the provision, read below in the extended entry.



    SEC. 135. Funds appropriated or limited in this Act shall be subject to the terms and conditions stipulated in section 350 of Public Law 107-87 and section 6901 of Public Law 110-28, including that the Secretary submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees annually on the safety and security of transportation into the United States by Mexico-domiciled motor carriers.


    Sec. 136. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act may be used, directly or indirectly, to establish, implement, continue, promote, or in any way permit a cross-border motor carrier demonstration program to allow Mexican-domiciled motor carriers to operate beyond the commercial zones along the international border between the United States and Mexico, including continuing, in whole or in part, any such program that was initiated prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.

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