WASHINGTON (PAI)—The July 1 start of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, the new “free trade” pact between the three North American nations, has put an end to a problem that bedeviled its predecessor, NAFTA, for its entire existence: Letting unsafe Mexican trucks, driven by pooped drivers, roam all U.S. roads.
So says Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, whose union led the long back-and-forth fight against that NAFTA provision. The union won when Democrats controlled Capitol Hill. The Dems restricted the trucks to a zone within 20 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. But it repeatedly had to go to court to try to restrict the trucks when Republican regimes ruled.
“For the first time, Teamster truckers will have protections on the job that they haven’t had in at least a quarter century thanks to the enactment of this new trade pact,” Hoffa explained.
“From the get-go, securing an overdue fix to the cross-border trucking provision that threatened highway safety and the competitiveness of the American trucking industry was essential for this union. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had made roadways less safe due to allowing older, Mexican-domiciled trucks on them.”
“But thanks to the hard work of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and allies such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and Advocates for Highway Safety, the USMCA adds a trade remedy to safeguard against material harm to U.S. truckers,” he said.
After thanking GOP President Donald Trump’s trade rep, Robert Lighthizer, for agreeing to Mexican truck restrictions, Hoffa warned that—like the rest of the USMCA—the proof will be in enforcement.
“We will continue to work closely with the agencies tasked with implementation of the trucks fix to ensure it is implemented vigorously and transparently, Hoffa said.
The top agency for barring the unsafe trucks and drivers is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, whose political leaders continually advocated letting unsafe Mexican trucks roll over all U.S. roads. They even wanted all the trucks to roll when they had insufficient safety data from Mexican truck inspections at the border.
That’s a safety threat, a point the Teamsters and their allies made in court and in Congress. It also cost U.S. truckers jobs.
Settling the Mexican trucks mess “was necessary, but not sufficient, to securing the Teamsters’ support of the” USMCA, Hoffa said. He also praised its “new enforcement mechan-isms that will protect worker rights in Mexico, especially the right to form independent Unions.”
That new Mexican labor law and its guaranteed enforcement was the price Lighthizer paid to get the AFL-CIO and almost all other Unions on board when lawmakers passed legislation in December 2018 to implement the revised USMCA.
“The new labor chapter also includes the right to strike as an expression of the freedom of association and contains protections against workplace violence and for migrant workers,” Hoffa said.
“USMCA also eliminated the investor state dispute settlement chapter from the original NAFTA that gave foreign corporations greater rights than American citizens.”