By Keith Laing - 04/15/11 08:52 PM EDT
The Obama administration should not give Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways under NAFTA, a liberal Democrat said Friday.
In a letter to the agency administering a program that would allow Mexican trucks into the U.S., Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the administration was pushing the “full liberalization of cross-border trucking” with its proposed pilot program under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“I am writing to express my serious concern with the administration’s latest plans to allow Mexican trucking companies to operate long haul in the United States,” DeFazio said in a letter to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro.
“I believe the administration is not launching a pilot program, but rather starting the full liberalization of cross-border trucking, without having fully addressed the concerns raised by members of Congress surrounding safety, security and job impacts that will necessarily arise,” DeFazio wrote.
The FMCSA said this week that it would test a program that would bring back cross-border trucking that ended in 2010 when a separate pilot program was ended.
Unions and liberal Democrats have long opposed the program. Obama announced he was moving forward during a March meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
DeFazio has long opposed NAFTA, and he said again Friday that the deal should be renegotiated.
“I have cautioned in the past that it will be difficult for Congress to support a cross-border trucking program that would jeopardize the safety of the traveling public and that would be an assault on American jobs,” he wrote. “I continue to believe that the U.S. should renegotiate U.S. NAFTA Annex I (I-U-21), the U.S. commitment to liberalize cross-border trucking, and thus eliminate the requirement to open our borders to Mexican trucks.
“This would remedy all the truck safety, security and job issues associated with this longstanding trade dispute,” he continued. “A successful renegotiation of NAFTA is a better way to eliminate the retaliatory and illegal tariffs which Mexico slapped on U.S. goods in response to termination of the last pilot program.”
Under the proposed FMCSA pilot program, Mexican and Canadian trucking companies would be granted provisional interstate operating licenses for 18 months. But DeFazio said the current plan would allow those permits to become permanent automatically.
“This permanent authority will not be revoked — even if Congress or FMCSA terminates the pilot program,” he said in his letter. “Further, carriers who participated in the previous FMCSA-initiated pilot program will get credit for the number of months they operated in the U.S. when they reapply under this new program. This means that some carriers will receive permanent authority almost immediately.”
Trade is one of a number of issues where the president has broken with liberal Democrats. DeFazio earlier this week said his colleagues should push Obama to act more like a Democrat.