Mexico publishes list of US imports subject to punitive tariffs

March 19th, 2009 - 1:35 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Mexico City, March 18 (EFE) Mexico Wednesday released a list of nearly 90 US products that will face import tariffs of up to 20 percent in reprisal for US Congress’ cancellation of a programme under which some Mexican trucks were allowed to operate north of the border.
The list includes fruits, juices, wines, batteries and cleaning products.

The affected products originate in more than 40 different US states and represent roughly $2 billion in annual American exports to Mexico, officials here said.

“Through the application of these reprisal measures, we are trying, in the first place, to preserve the integrity” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexican Economy Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Mateos said Monday in announcing the tariffs.

The move by the US Congress to eliminate funding for the cross-border trucking programme “is mistaken, protectionist and clearly in violation of the (NAFTA) treaty,” Ruiz said.

The provision to effectively kill the trucking plan was included in a $410 spending bill whose passage was essential to keep the US government functioning.

Ruiz noted that while Mexico has complied with NAFTA requirements to fully open its highways to US trucks in 2000, Washington delayed its part until 2007, when the two governments agreed on a one-year demonstration project granting Mexican truckers limited access to the US.

Though the US authorities were satisfied with the results and agreed to extend the pilot programme for another two years, Congress prohibited further funding for the initiative, the secretary said.

Prior to Ruiz’s announcement Monday, the White House said that President Barack Obama had ordered his administration to devise a new cross-border trucking programme consistent with NAFTA and with the safety concerns expressed by US legislators.

“The administration recognises these concerns,” presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

He also referred to a statement issued by the White House when Obama recently signed the spending bill: “The President has tasked the Department of Transportation to work with the US Trade Representative and the Department of State, along with leaders in Congress and Mexican officials, to propose legislation creating a new trucking project that will meet the legitimate concerns of Congress and our NAFTA commitments.”

The Mexican government said Tuesday that the trucking spat would not interfere with other items on the bilateral agenda and expressed a willingness to work with Washington to resolve the dispute.

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