Border politics

The other shoe has dropped in the elimination of the cross-border program with Mexico. Many people, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, warned that the elimination of the program by the U.S. would have consequences. Turns out they were right, as Mexico has slapped tariffs on almost 90 U.S. exports, mostly industrial and agricultural products, according to Mexico’s state-run news organization.

The cross-border program allowed registered trucks from the U.S. to enter Mexico beyond the normal commercial operating zones and the same for Mexican trucks entering the U.S. Among the proponents of the program were the American Trucking Assns., Caterpillar and the National Association of Manufacturers, which were among 69 organizations last March that said blocking the program would cause retaliation.

Opponents have claimed that allowing Mexican trucks on U.S. highways would create a hazard, as Mexico has less stringent safety requirements than the U.S. Those groups, led by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, may be right.

But, when it came time to support or deny the program, government officials did not cite safety as the reason. Rather, when asked about the cancellation, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said “Congress has opposed the project in the past because of concerns about the process that led to the program’s establishment and its operation.”

Gibbs went on to say that President Barack Obama has requested a new program be developed.

If the cancellation of the program was all about the stated reason Gibbs mentioned, shame on the government. In business, it’s the end result that matters, not how you get there. Just because some feelings may have been hurt along the way isn’t a reason to hurt the American people. And that’s what’s going to happen as U.S. goods suddenly become less attractive to Mexicans due to higher prices.

The correct, and most bi-partisan way, to fix the program would have been to retool it, not kill it. Let’s hope that there’s still time to work out a solution the right way, whether that solution may be.