By Peter DeFazio
U.S. Rep. (D-OR)
Mexican trucking companies remain ardent in their desire to unfairly compete with American truckers across the United States. Ever since President Clinton signed the flawed North American Free Trade Agreement, I have been fighting to keep unsafe, low-wage Mexican trucks out of the U.S.
Despite efforts by the Bush administration to open the Mexican border, Congress has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected the cross-border program. In a Congress that rarely agrees on anything, this issue has unified Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the Hill.
Under the guise of NAFTA, Mexico retaliated with illegal tariffs on U.S. exports. I urged the U.S. trade representative to challenge the legality of the tariffs, but he refused. By not challenging these tariffs Mexico was emboldened to initiate a second round of tariffs in August.
The Mexican government is trying to pressure U.S. lawmakers to relent by attacking key export industries in various states, including my home state of Oregon. NAFTA was a bad deal for the U.S., and I won’t back down to Mexican companies looking to steal another blue collar industry from the U.S.
This is not about two-way trade or two-way trucking. There is no American company that wants to drive in Mexico, pay the bribes, drive on the bad roads, and be hijacked. It’s only about Mexican trucks and drivers forcing U.S. truckers out of business because they’ll work for a buck an hour instead of a living wage. The end result is the American public is vulnerable to poorly trained drivers in unsafe trucks on our roads. But the American people will not be bullied into allowing unsafe, substandard trucks with low-paid, exhausted and abused drivers on our roads.
For 18 months, the Obama administration has been saying they’re going to have a plan to resolve the Mexican truck issue. They still don’t have one, but I do. I led 78 members of Congress in pushing the administration to modify NAFTA to eliminate the provision that provides for cross-border trucking.
Instead, we should keep the current system, which works rather well. Mexican drivers bring the product to the border, drop it off, and American truckers pick it up and deliver it. Unfortunately, they take back empty containers to Mexico, which gets to the bigger issue of repealing NAFTA and starting over on these failed trade agreements. And I have co-sponsored a bill to do that, too. LL