Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the following statement on the agreement signed today by Mexico and the United States to resolve the cross-border long-haul trucking dispute:
"The agreement signed today between the governments of Mexico and the United States to resolve the cross-border long-haul trucking dispute is a major win for U.S. agriculture, American jobs and our nation's economic prosperity. President Obama and President Calderon announced a path forward in March to resolve the dispute, and today the U.S. Department of Transportation—after months of hard work with Mexican counterparts—closed a deal that will provide tariff relief for numerous U.S. agricultural products and manufactured goods.
"This dispute has cost U.S. businesses more than $2 billion. For U.S. farm exports to Mexico, exports of affected commodities were reduced by 27 percent. But today, thanks to the persistent work of the Obama Administration, we have an agreement that not only will ultimately eliminate punitive tariffs, but it also provides opportunities to increase U.S. exports to Mexico and helps to expand jobs on both sides of the border. Moreover, the agreement puts the United States and Mexico on equal footing pertaining to our obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, by authorizing Mexican and U.S. long-haul carriers to engage in cross-border operations subject to certain requirements. Officials at the Department of Transportation say that the new long-haul cross-border trucking program with Mexico established by this agreement will begin a phased-in program built on the highest safety standards.
"The phase-ins begin on July 8, when Mexico reduces the existing tariffs on U.S. goods by 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent will be suspended within five business days from the date on which the first Mexican carrier receives authorization under the new program. Potentially, we're looking at a total lifting of the punitive tariffs in as little as 45 days. Moreover, Mexican carriers participating in the program are subject to certain requirements which will not allow them to haul domestic cargo between points within the United States, which creates additional opportunities for American businesses and workers.
"For U.S. farmers and ranchers, the lifting of these tariffs means jobs and fiscal relief—lifting constraints on American products, removing barriers to trade with a key trading partner, and putting Americans back to work at a time when U.S. agriculture is setting record export figures. Mexico is U.S. agriculture's third-ranked trading partner, buying $14.5 billion of U.S. farm goods last year. Already in 2011, exports to Mexico are up nearly 25 percent. Today's agreement will allow America's farmers and ranchers to continue to lead the way to American's economic recovery. U.S. agricultural exports alone will support more than 1.1 million jobs in America this year. And strong U.S. farm exports will be a key contributor to building an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world."