Put Mexican Trucking on Agenda for President’s Mexico Trip

By August 7, 2009Trade

President Obama is headed to Guadalajara, Mexico, this weekend to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The White House held a briefing that included Michael Froman, international economic affairs advisor. The briefing included this exchange on the Mexican truck issue:

Q … If you could tell us what the status is about the retaliatory tariffs from Mexico having to do with the trucking dispute.

MR. FROMAN: There are retaliatory tariffs in place, as you know. This is an area that we’re quite focused on. We’re working with Congress to address safety concerns that they have about the U.S.-Mexican trucking program, and we’ll do so in a way that’s consistent with our international obligations.

Q When he was a senator, President Obama voted against the pilot program. Is that the position of the administration?

MR. FROMAN: I think the position of the administration is we’d like to work with Congress to address their safety concerns and do so in a way that’s consistent with our international obligations.

Q Meaning, to resume the pilot program?

MR. FROMAN: To see whether we can find a way of addressing their concerns and meeting our international obligations.

So work already! The executive branch agencies have finished their assignments, so now it’s really a matter of the Administration going to Congress. In the meantime…

Makers of paper, batteries, toothpaste and grapes are paying tariffs on $2.4 billion of exports to Mexico after that country retaliated for a U.S. ban on Mexican trucks. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s comment on Aug. 4 that he’s too busy with the “cash for clunkers” auto-discount program to focus on the truck dispute has fueled some discontent among exporters.

“On the U.S. side, there is a lack of political desire to solve this,” said Ken Barbic, director of federal affairs at Western Growers of Irvine, California, which represents grape, lettuce, date and pear growers hurt by the tariffs.

California’s agriculture industry has been hit especially hard, but the Bloomberg story notes the manufacturers who have also been affected, prominently Appleton Papers of Appleton, Wisc.

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