Published online: Jan 11, 2011 Potato Harvesting, Seed Potatoes, Potato Equipment
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WASHINGTON, D.C.-The U.S. Department of Transportation has unveiled an initial concept of a long-haul, cross-border Mexican trucking program that, according to a department release, meets the United States' obligations under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, while at the same time putting first the safety of products transported across the border. United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther welcomed the news as a positive sign of progress in what has
become a significant issue for the produce supply chain.

"We are pleased that the Department of Transportation has finally released a U.S.-Mexico Cross Border Trucking proposal," said Guenther. "This has gone on much too long and needs to be rectified as soon as possible. We will be working with our members to analyze the impact of this proposal and in particular discuss with Mexican officials if this proposal meets the United State's obligations under NAFTA. In turn, we will ask the Mexican government to suspend their current trade retaliation efforts that have severely impacted trade of fresh fruits and vegetables with Mexico."

Because the United States is not currently meeting its NAFTA obligations to allow a pilot program of Mexican trucks entering the U.S., Mexico has placed retaliatory tariffs on many American goods including fresh produce items entering Mexico. Given the economic impact upon the fresh produce industry and the damage caused to U.S.-Mexico trade, United Fresh contends that the crisis must be resolved urgently.

Under the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, Congress blocked funding for the Mexican Cross-Border Truck Safety Program. This was a pilot program allowing a small number of Mexican trucks to enter the U.S. while operating in international commerce. Though this program did not provide the full access that the Mexicans were entitled under our NAFTA obligations, the program had been in operation without retaliation since 2007. By removing this program, the United States is now in violation of its NAFTA commitments and excessive tariffs have been placed on U.S. products totaling $2 billion.

In 2010, Congress removed the prohibition on funding allowing the administration to move forward with a new pilot program. However, the administration has yet to finalize this new pilot program and the Mexican government has imposed new duties on additional fresh produce items as a result of this unresolved conflict.