Mexican trucks to ply US highways? Obama is ready to roll.
President Obama on Thursday laid out a plan to allow trucks from Mexico to carry goods into America. Concern about safety of Mexican trucks have nixed such transport for decades.
Mexican trucks may soon be rolling along US highways â especially along the US-Mexico border â if a deal President Obama announced Thursday to resolve a long-standing dispute fares better than previous proposals.
With Mexican President Felipe CalderÃ³n at his side at the White House, Mr. Obama announced the proposed solution to a standoff that has pitted US truckers against business interests since before the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect in 1994. Under NAFTA, the border was to be opened to crossborder trucking, but concerns about the safety of Mexican trucks blocked the provisionâs implementation.
Under the deal, which still faces congressional and local scrutiny, the US would allow in Mexican trucks that comply with stringent safety standards. In return, Mexico would lift tariffs it imposed on US goods in retaliation for flouting the NAFTA provision. The Mexican trucks would carry recorders for verifying that they transported crossborder shipments and did not act as domestic transporters on the US side.
The trucking deal came during an Obama-CalderÃ³n meeting that was largely about atmospherics â essentially turning down the heat on a bilateral relationship that had reached the boiling point in recent weeks.
Mr. CalderÃ³n was irritated to the point of public steam-letting over a series of US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that showed US officials â including US Ambassador Carlos Pascual â questioning aspects of Calderonâs five-year-old war on Mexicoâs powerful drug cartels. The cables were heavy on critiques of Mexican corruption and poor coordination among the countryâs security forces, and light on accolades for CalderÃ³n.
The tensions appeared to be mostly assuaged by the two leadersâ meeting Thursday. Obama spoke glowingly of CalderÃ³nâs âcourageousâ fight against the drug cartels, and added a perspective that Mexicans long to hear when he said the US shares responsibility for violence south of the border that has claimed the lives of more than 35,000 Mexicans since CalderÃ³n took office.
âWe are very mindful that the battle President CalderÃ³n is fighting in Mexico is not just his,â Obama said. âItâs also ours. We have to take responsibility, just as heâs taking responsibility.â
In private, CalderÃ³n did not back down from his criticism of Ambassador Pascual, according to US officials. But Obama made it clear he is sticking by his ambassador, the officials say â thus leaving intact one potential source of friction in the relationship at least until 2012, when both countries hold presidential elections.
Later Thursday, in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, CalderÃ³n extended the âco-responsibilityâ theme to issues beyond the drug war, and in particular to immigration.
CalderÃ³n said Mexico is working hard to improve education, health care, and overall living standards for all Mexicans, so that the countryâs young people donât have to migrate north to find a better life. He ticked off statistics about high numbers of new engineers graduated and new hospitals built.
But he added that North American migration would remain a reality for some time, and that migrants going to work in the US â labor that he said is aiding the US economy â deserve a secure legal status instead of âliving in the shadows.â