|San Diego Union-Tribune
July 19, 2001
Road safety of Mexican trucks questioned
By JOE CANTLUPE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials yesterday clashed with
Congress over a White House plan to allow Mexican trucks full access to
U.S. highways beginning Jan. 1.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, testifying before a Senate panel,
insisted that the administration will not compromise road safety. But Sen.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., characterized the plan as a nightmare.
"We are not ready for this," she said during a Commerce Committee hearing.
Mineta told senators he was "thoroughly convinced" that the United States
can meet its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement to
allow the expanded access "while putting in place an effective safety
Mexican trucks cannot travel more than 20 miles from the border, except in
California, where the zone extends to about 75 miles.
President Bush wants to give Mexico full access to U.S. roads, saying it is
required by a seven-year-old NAFTA order that the Clinton administration
declined to carry out. Clinton officials cited safety concerns amid intense
pressure from the Teamsters and other labor unions.
This year, a NAFTA panel ordered the United States to lift its moratorium,
and Bush vowed to do that.
But the president was handed a surprising setback last month when the House approved an amendment to a transportation bill that would deny Mexican
cross-country truck traffic.
Bush threatened to veto that bill, and Mineta said yesterday the administration
also has "serious concerns" about a separate Senate Appropriations Committee amendment that imposes tough inspection requirements. Mineta
called the measure too burdensome, too costly and a possible violation of
The Senate panel added $15 million to Bush's proposed $88 million
expenditure to beef up inspections along the Southwest border. The House
had eliminated such spending.