San Diego Union-Tribune

July 13, 2001

Bill would allow Mexican trucks anywhere in U.S. after inspection
 Senate panel gives unanimous OK


WASHINGTON -- In a move toward a compromise with the White House,
a key Senate committee yesterday approved a transportation bill that would allow Mexican trucks to operate throughout the United States if they pass tough safety inspections.

The Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the bill after President Bush said he would veto a measure approved by the House last month that would block the Transportation Department from issuing permits to Mexican trucks.

Mexican trucks now are limited to a roughly 20-mile zone north of the border. Once they reach the edge of that zone, their loads are transferred to U.S. trucks.

The White House said it was encouraged by the Senate committee's vote. The trucking issue has caused trade friction between the United States and Mexico dating to the Clinton administration.

"We're making progress in that the Senate is addressing the safety concerns, without closing our borders," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "We think there's progress in terms of addressing safety concerns and our international obligations."

Bush, a former Texas governor, wants to allow thousands of Mexican trucks to carry goods to and from any point in the United States beginning Jan. 1.

This year, Bush overturned President Clinton's 1995 order that denied
Mexican access to this country's highways. Bush complied with a North
American Free Trade Agreement order.

The Senate committee also voted to provide $105 million for improved safety enforcement of trucks along the Southwest border -- $15 million more than Bush sought.

The overall transportation bill was pegged at nearly $60 billion.

Last month, in a surprise vote, the House blocked the government from
issuing permits to thousands of Mexican trucks applying to travel in the United States beyond the limited zone.