In a speech made in New Mexico late yesterday, President George W. Bush said attempts to keep Mexican trucks off U.S. roads over safety concerns amounts to “discrimination against a friend of America.”The President painted critics of his effort to open the U.S. to Mexican trucks as “anti-Hispanic.
“There are some voices that want to wall us off from Mexico. They want to build a wall,” he said, after opening a job training facility for Hispanic workers in Albuquerque. “I say to them who want to condemn our neighbors to the south to poverty that I refuse to accept that type of isolationist and protectionist attitude.”
Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), established in 1994, designed to improve trade between all three nations. NAFTA also gave trucking companies from all three nations the right to operate freely within their neighbor’s borders. However, the U.S. has delayed full implementation of those rights for Mexican truckers, largely because of concerns over Mexican truck safety. Currently, Mexican trucks can only operate within a 20-mile border area in four southwestern states.
Former President Clinton supported the border restrictions on Mexican trucks. However, shortly after taking office, Bush said he would fully open the border in January 2002. Yet Congress has moved to block that effort, garnering support from both Democrats and Republicans concerned about highway safety.
On August 1, the Senate approved a bill calling for tough safety standards for Mexican trucks operating in the U.S.; a bill that echoes legislation passed by the House of Representatives in June. The President has said he will veto the measure if it is passed.
“There are some people who say we shouldn’t allow our friends to the south send their trucks into the U.S.,” the President added. “I say that is discrimination against Mexico. I say if we are going to have NAFTA, we ought to enforce all of NAFTA. I believe we can have safety on our highways without discriminating against our neighbors to the south.”