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September 16, 2007 - Safety a Key Issue in Trade Agreement

There is no question that we are operating in a global economy. In a global economy, trade agreements are a necessity and I favor them when it comes to agricultural trade, keeping in mind however, that if a trade agreement favors only one side, then it really isn’t a “fair” agreement. And if we are going to call it ‘agricultural trade’, then products need to move both ways; if they don’t, it’s not trade.

NAFTA of course, is a prime example of a trade agreement designed to bring three countries, Canada, the United States and Mexico together in 1994 to remove trade barriers and make trade easier between the three countries. That did mean U. S producers of fruits and vegetables were hurt by Mexican produce coming into the United States. On the other hand, Mexican corn growers were hurt by U.S. corn going into Mexico. So if you look at it that way, it probably is a balanced and fair agreement.

But part of the agreement is now causing concern in this country. Recently the U.S. Senate voted to block funding for a Bush Administration test program to let Mexican long-haul trucks operate in the United States under that 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The Senate said “we will not provide funding for the program because we don’t feel enough safety measures have been taken yet to make those trucks and their drivers safe on U. S. roads.”

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan is opposed to allowing Mexican trucks operate freely in this country without further testing. He said, and I quote “...the vote against the program was a turning of the tide on the senseless, headlong rush this country has been engaged in for some time to dismantle safety standards...”. On the other side of the issue is Arizona Senator John Kyl, who said “It is much more efficient and much cheaper for American consumers if those Mexican trucks can travel in the United States.”

Incidentally, timing couldn’t have been worse for the Mexican government and supporters of the proposal; about a week before the Senate vote, an accident involving two trucks in Mexico killed 29 people.

The pilot program involves both Mexican trucks operating in the United States and U.S. trucks being allowed to operate in Mexico, with limits on both sides. It would allow a maximum of 100 Mexican companies and up to 600 trucks on U.S. roads. Prior to the Senate vote, the House also voted against the project.

I am with Congress on this issue. I want to see more assurance that the trucks are safe and the drivers know the U.S. driving rules before allowing this program to move forward.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.