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NAFTA Inspired Trucking Program Rolls On

By       Message Dana Gabriel     Permalink
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The cross-border trucking program, which allows 100 Mexican trucking companies to operate beyond the current 25 mile commercial zone has been extended two more years. Some American trucking companies are also participating in the program and are running loads across the Mexican border. Allowing Mexican long haul trucks full access to U.S. roadways is a component and commitment of NAFTA. This pilot program is seen as a first step in enacting this provision of the agreement. It is designed to further open the borders and facilitate the freer flow of goods and services. Through the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) and the push for a North American Union, there is a move to further open the border to labor mobility. Since NAFTA's inception, there have been safety and security concerns which have delayed Mexican trucks from gaining full access. Opponents of the program also fear that thousands of American jobs could be lost if it becomes permanent.

In advance of the announcement to extend the trucking program, the executive vice-president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) Todd Spencer said, "There is little doubt the administration will try to extend the program beyond its anniversary. They've consistently ignored Congressional directives to terminate it."- There is already a federal law in place that bans funding to the program, but because of an apparent loophole, it continues. In fact, Congress has already voted more than one time to halt the program. The decision by the Bush administration to extend the program was done despite pending legislation designed to stop it for good.

Conveniently, the announcement to further extend the trucking program was done while members of Congress, many of who oppose the plan, had left for their August break. It also came after the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee had tabled a bill to stop it, which was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. It is expected to be voted on in September. This bill would require congressional authority to restart the program and would stop it no later then its anniversary date of September 6. The bill would also prohibit the secretary of transportation from granting Mexican trucks access beyond the 25 mile commercial zone.

Some organized labor unions, highway safety and consumer groups oppose the trucking program because of safety and security concerns. Teamsters, along with Public Citizen and the Sierra Club, have filed a suit challenging the legality of the program. Judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco have yet to release their decision. Teamsters and the OOIDA have both praised the recent bill put forth by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The president of Teamsters, James Hoffa said, "This bill makes it as clear as day that Congress wants the border closed to dangerous trucks."-

To this date, the Bush administration, the Department of Transportation, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have not adequately proven that Mexican drivers and trucks will meet the same standards as their American counterparts. There is little doubt that Mexican standards are not equal to those of the United States. There are concerns over drug testing, language barriers, and overall highway safety. Mexican drivers are also pushed to drive very long hours. It has also been reported that Mexican truckers could be granted access across the border in as little as 15 seconds. This would be part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Free and Secure Trade system. This trucking program is a national security issue and could lead to an increase in drug and human smuggling.

Much like NAFTA and the SPP, this cross-border trucking program will further benefit multinational corporations. It could all but destroy small and medium-sized independent trucking companies, and lead to thousands of American drivers losing their jobs. This is all part of a much bigger agenda, which includes destruction of the middle class, the construction of the NAFTA Superhighway and the creation of a North American Union.

 

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Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues.

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