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In what could be considered a setback, officials from the United States and Mexico agreed to form a working group to address the issues surrounding the refusal of the United States to allow Mexican trucks to deliver product throughout the United States.

Under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.- Mexico border was supposed to have been opened to long-distance deliveries in 2000.

The United States has not implemented that provision, stalling for years as it internally debated safety issues as well as the loss of jobs to U.S. truck operators.

A trial program was launched several years ago, but Congress shut down that program a year ago by prohibiting the funding of it. Mexico retaliated by slapping a tariff on many U.S. goods, including a 45 percent duty on U.S. grapes headed south.

The prohibition on the funding of the trial program was removed in the latest budget, and there was speculation that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood's April 12 meeting with his Mexican counterpart in Mexico would result in a resolution.

Some believe that the announcement of the working-group concept points to an inability to reach an agreement and further delay in solving this problem. Informed sources said that U.S. Department of Transportation officials had indicated previously that a solution was forthcoming and could be announced after Congress returned from its Easter recess.

Mr. LaHood met with Mexico's secretary of communications and transportation, Juan Molinar Horcasitas, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. According to a joint press release, both officials agreed on the importance of cooperating in the areas of safety, reliability, efficiency and the sustainability of the two transportation systems.