San Diego Union-Tribune

Page C-2

08-Feb-2001 Thursday

Giving access is risky, Filner says 


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Bob Filner vowed yesterday to introduce legislation to keep Mexican trucks from gaining wider access to U.S. roadways as called for under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"This is a decision that threatens the safety and health of all people in our region," the San Diego Democrat said.

Filner was reacting to White House statements that Bush is likely to accept an international trade panel's finding released Tuesday ordering the United States to comply with a NAFTA provision allowing Mexican trucks greater access to U.S. roadways.

When asked about Filner's plans to sponsor legislation to block the move, White House deputy press secretary Claire Buchan said: "We have every intention of ensuring that U.S. safety standards are met regardless of how we proceed."

Filner's concerns were echoed by a coalition of other lawmakers, highway safety advocates and the Teamsters union, who urged Bush yesterday to proceed cautiously with plans to allow Mexican truckers to operate beyond the immediate border.

"We're going to have thousands of these trucks on the road without any guarantee of the expertise of the drivers, how much sleep they need and whether they have insurance," Filner said.

"Go slow," James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, wrote Bush.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Hoffa cited U.S. government reports that many Mexican trucks inspected when entering the country have failed  to meet U.S. safety standards.