WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation sent its long-awaited preliminary proposal for ending a standoff over a controversial cross-border trucking program with Mexico to Congress and the Mexican government on Thursday.

This story first appeared in the January 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The agency said the “concept document” is a starting point in renewed negotiations with Mexico over a broad range of concerns. Mexico imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods, including sunglasses, personal care products and synthetic staple fiber yarns from the U.S. in 2009 and 2010 in retaliation for the U.S. failing to live up to promises to open its borders to Mexican trucks.

The trucking provision was part of the North American Free Trade Agreement implemented in 1994. Congress terminated a pilot program of the provision in 2009, citing safety concerns and potential job losses in the U.S. Right now, Mexican trucks have to transfer their goods to U.S. trucks at the border, a costly and time-consuming endeavor for importers.

Teamsters Union general president Jim Hoffa said, “We continue to have serious reservations about DOT’s ability to guarantee the safety of Mexican trucks. Mexican trucks simply don’t meet the same standards as U.S. trucks.”

The DOT proposal includes reviewing the driving record of Mexican drivers who will be operating in the U.S., conducting tests of drivers’ knowledge of U.S. traffic laws, verification of insurance and a set period of inspection and monitoring for Mexican trucks before they are qualified to operate fully in the U.S.

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