Mexico said it expected its first truck to cross into U.S. territory in about four months, a move that would end a long-standing cross-border trucking dispute with its main trade partner.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that the United States and Mexico had finally found a “clear path” to resolving the dispute although the proposal had yet to be approved by U.S. lawmakers.
It could be ready for U.S. congressional scrutiny later this month or in April.
“The date we are expecting when a truck can definitely cross ... is in approximately four months,” Mexico’s Communications and Transport Minister Dionisio Perez-Jacome told reporters.
Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said at the same news conference that the trucking deal between the two countries could be signed by the end of May or mid-June.
“As soon as the inking of the deal is announced, we would lift 50 percent of the tariffs,” Ferrari said referring to the duties that Mexico slapped on a rotating list of U.S. products starting in March 2009.
The tariffs were the result of U.S. lawmakers blocking funding for a plan to gradually allow Mexican trucks into the United States to meet a condition of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico requires open borders for long-haul vehicles, but the United States has limited Mexican trucks to U.S. border cities like San Diego since 1982.
The retaliatory tariffs, which Washington says have caused about $2 billion in commercial losses, have been temporarily levied on goods ranging from strawberries to Christmas trees and pork.
The Obama administration in January released a concept paper for talks with Mexico on reestablishing cross border trucking. It proposed a new inspection and monitoring regime to permit long-haul trucks from Mexico on U.S. highways.
Perez-Jacome said that in order for Mexican trucks to obtain definitive and irrevocable authorization to enter the United States, they should meet a series of requirements and operate in U.S. territory over a period of 18 months.
U.S. truckers will be subject to the same scrutiny to operate in Mexico.
“With this, equal treatment (for both sides) is guaranteed,” Perez-Jacome said. (Reuters)