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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

US and Mexico Need to Find a New Way

Good Morning Readers! I thought I might be a little less angry today - compared to yesterday's rant - by discussing a topic and taking a position that may shock some of you, at least those who consider me a radical, Republican-Bush-hating menace to society. Believe it or not, I plan to defend a program created by the Bush Administration, and one that unions despise. I know, it shocks me too.

It involves the right of Mexican trucks to enter the United States. The program started under the Bush Administration and was bitterly opposed by many Democratic lawmakers and by the Teamsters Union. Lawmakers are preparing to cut off the money for the one and a half year-old pilot program that opened the way for up to 500 Mexican trucks from 100 operators to drive deeper into the United States.

Originally the U.S. has allowed only a few Mexican trucks to drive beyond a southern border buffer zone, although it agreed under the Clinton Administration, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, to allow Mexican trucks full access to U.S. roadways beginning in 1995. As far as I can tell from my research, Mexico allowed the same access for U. S. truckers. Fair is fair! President Clinton negotiated and signed the agreement, and unless they start to pick and choose NAFTA clauses too, it's up to us to keep it. Congress, especially Democrats, must give in on this one. Mexico can take retaliatory action by placing very expensive tariffs on U.S. goods.

Who knew, but after Congress announced its intention to kill the program last week, Mexico said it would increase tariffs on 90 industrial and agricultural goods, likely to include politically sensitive farm products. John Deere and the rest of agricultural America are already hanging by a thread. Congress can be so stupid some times.

You see, Mexico was smart and thought ahead by obtaining a judicial ruling in 2001 under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowing it to impose sanctions, so Congress is playing with fire - an especially hot fire during this horrible JOB KILLING recession. How can you weigh the Teamsters against the farm workers? It doesn't work that way. We have to find a better solution.

We cannot afford sanctions from one of our LARGEST TRADING PARTNERS at this time! It's too risky for rural America. Thousands of jobs are at risk. (Btw, screw you Republicans who accuse me of being a West Coast elitist. I do care about the red states too, even if they don't know how to vote properly.)

The sanctions, which Mexican officials say are set to be imposed later this week, will be one of the largest acts of retaliation against US exports. US goods exports to Mexico totalled $151.5 BILLION last year. On Monday, Gerardo Ruíz Mateos, Mexico’s economy minister, said: “We believe that the action taken by the US is wrong, protectionist and in clear violation of NAFTA.”

The White House and U.S. trade representatives are supposedly examining all possible options, but but that won't help keep American JOBS when the Mexicans decide to make good on their threat. The only option is for Democrats to tell the unions that farm jobs are important too, and that sometimes one union has to BACK DOWN and try to solve this problem in a more creative win-win fashion - such as help the Mexicans improve their trucking industry, or negotiate benefits for our truckers in Mexico. There must be a better solution.

The Senate is considering a $410 billion House-passed spending bill that halts funding for the Mexican truck program. Two years ago, the Senate voted 74-24 to cut off the program's funding. Voting with the majority at the time were Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Interestingly, now that George Bush is gone, Senate Republicans don't even plan to continue supporting the program. It makes you wonder whether they only supported the program to get the Hispanic vote in the first place - I assume they had the Southern trucker vote in the bag. That would be my guess. They're hard to figure out when it comes to this issue. They hate unions, yet they also don't like the idea of Mexican truckers taking American jobs. They're sort of schizophrenic on this one. Border state Republican nut job Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, who tried to keep the money flowing in 2007 on behalf of George Bush, is now giving up and moving on.

The really weird open question for me involves the union claim that Mexican trucks are unsafe. The unions are claiming that most Mexican trucks entering the US are run by so-called “drayage” operations that use older vehicles more likely to fail inspection tests. Scary, especially on wet roads!

However, it's still an open, and political, question because a study funded by the US Department of Transportation - under George "he lies too easily" Bush found that when comparing like with like, Mexican trucks were often safer than their US counterparts. Can we trust that report? My gut tells me no, but who knows. US trucks are run ragged and can look pretty rough sometimes. Regardless, the issue of truck safety is important and should still be resolved.

The Mexicans have been extraordinarily patient on this issue, and I think we need to address it for the good of the economy, for the Mexican and American worker, for the safety of American roads, and to stop a ridiculous new trade war. President Obama and Democratic leaders should come up with a big picture solution fast, and stop this before it gets any worse. They are our neighbors, our friends, and they deserve a reasonable solution.

Michael Boh
Papamoka's Left Coast Contributor
from Our Rants & Raves Blog

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