February 26, 2007
One of the key provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed in 1993 was that Mexican truckers would be allowed to travel on U.S. highways, as long as proper inspection standards were met. Mainly because of opposition from unions (the Teamsters), however, this was never really put into practice. Trucks from Mexico could cross into the United States, but had to stop within a certain distance of the border and allow U.S. trucks to haul the cargo the rest of the way to the destination. This caused many Mexicans to doubt U.S. good faith. Finally, the Bush administration has negotiated provisions that will allow Mexican trucks to drive much further into the U.S.A., as long as the drivers speak adequate English and meet other standards. The deal should take effect in the next two months or so, and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters pledged that it will promote trade without compromising highway safety. See Washington Post. I think this step was long overdue, and is exactly the kind of concrete gesture that the beleaguered new president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, needs to show his people that he can get things done. More generally, it just may reactivate NAFTA and the overall agenda of promoting free trade in the Western Hemisphere. Otherwise, the folks south of the border won't have much incentive to look for jobs in their own countries, and you know what that means.