SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA urges administration to stand up to tariffs

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 8/17/2010

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010 – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association continued its pressure on the Obama administration to push back against what the Association contends are illegal tariffs levied against nearly 100 U.S. products.

The Mexican government placed tariffs on more than 90 U.S. products nearly 18 months ago in an effort to force the U.S. government to open the border to long-haul trucks from Mexico.

On Monday, the Mexican government announced it would renew the tariffs, now targeting 99 U.S. products.

The plug was pulled on the cross-border pilot program on March 11, 2009. One week later, Mexico struck back hard, implementing tariffs on some 90 U.S. goods – tariffs carrying a price tag of approximately $2.3 to $2.4 billion.

Mexico officials claimed to have imposed the tariffs because ending the cross-border program would cost Mexico potentially up to $2 billion.

The new round of tariffs targets 99 products that the Mexican government says have a similar export value to the previous round of tariffs.

OOIDA President Jim Johnston sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk earlier this year, pressing for Kirk to fight back against the tariffs.

“It is irresponsible for you to stand back as those tariffs continue to jeopardize U.S.-based businesses and American jobs,” Johnston pointed out in the letter.

The trade representative did not fight against the tariffs, but was quoted in many news articles in 2009 saying the best way to resolve the tariff dispute was to start another program.

OOIDA continues to take exception with what it sees as Kirk’s shirking of his responsibility.

“If the U.S. trade representative had called out Mexico for their illegal tariffs more than a year ago, we would not be in this situation,” said OOIDA’s Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “It was irresponsible to allow it to go on for this long.”

While some contend that the U.S. is under an obligation to simply open the border, OOIDA and lawmakers alike have pointed out time and time again that there are safety and compliance standards that must be met for Mexican motor carriers to have access to U.S. highways.

The tariffs, in the Association’s view, are simply a way to pressure the U.S. into giving in and not ensuring the safety and compliance standards are not met.

“These bullying tactics should not be tolerated. The onus is on Mexico to raise safety, security and environmental standards for their trucking industry,” Spencer said. “We should not allow ourselves to be blackmailed into lowering our standards.”

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