Obama working to resolve trucking issue with Mexico

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During a trip to Mexico City last week, President Obama said he wants to repair a trade dispute with Mexico that has escalated since the United States ended a cross-border trucking program.

Last month, Congress voted to end a U.S. Department of Transportation pilot program allowing Mexican trucks to run in the United States. Mexico, which said the action violated the North American Free Trade Agreement, imposed higher tariffs on about 90 U.S. exports, such as fruits and industrial goods, worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

Mexico has said it would remove the tariffs as soon as the United States drops the trucking ban. Mexico’s government asked Obama to permit all of the country’s tractor-trailers to operate across the border, a Mexican Transportation Department official said.

Recently, a consortium of 140 U.S. business, food and agricultural groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged Obama to settle the dispute. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent recommendations on resolving the dispute to the White House ahead of Obama’s visit to Mexico.

“My team is working with President Calderon’s team to resolve this issue, and I’m hopeful that we can resolve it in an effective way,” Obama said after talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

It will be “premature” to expect a detailed announcement on the trucking issue this week, said Denis McDonough, one of Obama’s senior foreign policy advisers.

Under NAFTA, the United States agreed to open its highways to Mexican truckers, but the Teamsters union has fought that move, contending Mexican trucks are unsafe.