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Landmark US-Mexico trucking agreement resolves 15-year conflict

After years of wrangling, US and Mexican officials signed an agreement Wednesday that allows trucks from each nation to travel on the other country’s highways – a key provision of NAFTA.

Trucks barrel down Interstate 95 during the morning rush hour in this 2002 file photo. A new agreement, signed Wednesday by representatives of the US and Mexican governments, will allow cross-border trucking for the first time in 15 years – if Congress signs off.

John Nordell / The Christian Science Monitor / File

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The United States and Mexico on Wednesday signed an agreement aimed at resolving a cross-border trucking dispute. The longstanding disagreement had come to symbolize growing resistance, especially in the US Congress, to free-trade provisions with America’s southern neighbor.

The accord, signed in Mexico City by US and Mexican transportation officials, would end a 15-year-old controversy that on the US side featured fears of unsafe Mexican trucks barreling along US highways, driven by unprofessional Mexican truckers.

On the Mexican side, outrage over the American disregard for a NAFTA provision led to retaliatory tariffs on US goods ranging from pork to consumer care products – which cost the US as much as $2 billion in exports.

The accord was greeted warmly by US trade, farm, and business organizations – but condemned by US trucking organizations, a sign the agreement could face trouble in Congress.

Under the agreement, the US will reinstate a pilot program for Mexican truck certification that was introduced under the Bush administration – and defunded by an angry Congress in 2009. Mexico, in turn, will immediately drop half of the tariffs on about 100 US products, with the rest to be removed when Mexican trucks actually start rolling across the border.

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