Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of 201 House members has urged President Clinton to keep Mexican trucks from gaining unlimited access to U.S. highways.
In a March 14 letter to the President released last week by the Teamsters union, the group said, “There has not been sufficient progress in addressing safety deficiencies to justify expanding privileges for Mexican motor carriers.”
The administration is weighing whether to give Mexican trucks the green light to make deliveries in the four border states — Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Developing this access is one of the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the eventual goal under NAFTA is to have Mexican, U.S. and Canadian trucks travel freely about North America by 2000.
Clinton was expected to make an announcement liberalizing trucking in the four border states during a trip to Mexico set for April 11-12. That trip has been delayed until May 6-7 because of Clinton’s recent knee surgery.
In their letter to the White House, the congressmen argued that the administration’s current policy of withholding full border-state access for Mexican motor carriers has not hurt U.S.-Mexican trade.
“To date, numerous efforts have failed to effect an agreement between the United States and Mexico to ensure that full border-state access will not threaten highway safety,” the letter said. “Although planning and coordination activities are under way, they are no substitute for proven enforcement systems in Mexico, and the U.S. declarations that all trucks, U.S. or foreign, must meet U.S. safety standards are meaningless without adequate oversight by competent inspectors.”
The letter was circulated by Reps. Jack Quinn (R., N.Y.), and James Oberstar (D., Minn.). Both voted against NAFTA. Not all signatories to the letter, however, which represents 35 states, opposed NAFTA.
The Teamsters have been a prominent participant in the debate being waged over Mexican truck access to the U.S. The union has complained that trucking liberalization will increase the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S. They also say that maintenance on Mexican trucks varies greatly and there aren’t enough inspectors to keep turning back unsafe vehicles.
Currently, trailers going in either direction are dropped at or near the border for pickup either by a U.S. or Mexican driver and rig, depending on the direction of the cargo.

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