The pilot program allowing trucks from Mexico into the U.S. began Friday. It’s part of an agreement on tariffs and trade reached last March between the Obama Administration and Mexico. It allows Mexican truckers and U.S. truckers to operate across each other’s borders for up to three years.
It’s also the official implementation of the trucking portion of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been in force since 1994.
The trucking issue is at the heart of a trade dispute between the two countries which was also been resolved Friday with the lifting of tariffs on 89 U.S. products. The tariffs were imposed in retaliation for the U.S. failing to allow Mexican trucking firms to operate north of the border in violation of NAFTA. Among the affected products are cheese, pork, potatoes, apples, grapes and other goods.
The resolution is a relief for U.S. cheese processors, according to U.S. Dairy Export Council president Tom Suber.
“These actions mean dairy products on Mexico’s retaliation list will now be free of the 20 to 25 percent tariffs that were restricting access to our best foreign market,” said Suber.
Another area of agricultural trade affected by the dropping of tariffs by Mexico is pork.
“Mexico is a very important market for the U.S. pork industry and for many other sectors. More than 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico,” said Doug Wolf, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wisconsin, and president of National Pork Producers Council.
According to the agreement, Mexican trucks can deliver cargo to any destination in the U.S. and pick up a load and return to Mexico, however they are not allowed to deliver between U.S. destinations. U.S. trucks are bound by the same guidelines in Mexico.
Opponents of the program, including the Teamsters Union, are concerned about the safety records of the Mexican carriers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will monitor the ability of Mexican trucks to operate safely on U.S. roads.
So far, only one small Mexico-based motor carriers have been certified for the program totaling two vehicles.
Brownfield’s Bob Meyer and Ken Anderson contributed to this article.