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Mexican truckers sue U.S. government over trucking dispute

by Joan Murphy | June 02, 2009
WASHINGTON -- A Mexican trucking association is suing the U.S. government for more than $6 billion in the latest saga over Washington's decision to not allow Mexican truckers on U.S. roads, according to a Reuters report.

Mexico's National Cargo Transportation Association said that the U.S. government violated the North American Free Trade Agreement by not letting Mexican trucks use U.S. highways. Mexican truckers are tapping an arbitration clause in the trade agreement that allows parties to sue for trade agreement violations.

A federal pilot program, the Cross-Border Trucking Demonstration Project, let about 100 trucks drive beyond the 25-mile commercial zone in 2007, but it was killed when Congress voted to stop the program in March.

As a result, Mexico retaliated March 18 by imposing tariffs on nearly 90 U.S. exports, including grapes, pears, onions and other agricultural commodities, worth more than $2 billion. California grape growers were especially hard hit by the new duties.

"The U.S. has had a long time to implement a [Mexican trucking] plan but keeps refusing to follow through," said Allison Moore, spokesperson for the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, the group that represents produce businesses in Mexico. Preliminary data from the pilot program showed that Mexican truckers maintained a good safety record, she said.

While Ms. Moore said that she could not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, she did express concern that the tensions between the two governments over the trucking dispute could worsen. "We want to make sure it doesn't escalate," Ms. Moore told The Produce News.

In the meantime, U.S. trucking groups say that the Department of Transportation is lobbying Congress to open U.S. highways to Mexican trucks, a move they say would threaten the safety of U.S. highways.