When Mexico's President Felipe Calderon visits the White House on May 19, I hope President Obama takes time to mend the deteriorating U.S.-Mexico relationship, which recently soured over a trucking dispute.
Last year, the Obama Administration responded to union requests that reversed several years of policy and blocked Mexican long-haul trucks from crossing the U.S. border. The Administration's ruse of truck safety flew in the face of a total lack of evidence and years of peaceful trade. Mexico responded quickly... exercising legal rights under longstanding agreements by slapping high tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of American products. These tariffs hurt many American producers, including farmers and manufacturers.
Reopening the U.S. border to Mexican long-haul trucks would lift the excessive tariffs placed on U.S. products. Such action would contribute greatly toward achieving President Obama's pledge to double exports in the next five years. It would also help save and create some 25,000 U.S. jobs affected by the trading relationship, according to economists Laura M. Baughman and Joseph F. Francois. The only way to provide relief to those sectors affected by the tariffs is to do the right thing--reinstate the cross-border trucking program.
Trade between the United States and Mexico totaled $368 billion in 2008, making Mexico our third-largest U.S. trading partner. As I first wrote in Huffington Post a year ago (See "Trucks, Drugs and NAFTA") at the start of this trade dispute, difficult economic times call for open markets to American goods. Instead, we have once again bowed to the pressures of big labor and unions who allege that Mexican trucks are not safe on U.S. highways. The union argument is nothing more than thinly veiled protectionism.
Our government has a short window of opportunity to end this economically senseless dispute with Mexico. In two days, the presidents of these most powerful nations in the world will meet. They'll surely focus on national security issues, drug wars and civil society, and it's a perfect opportunity to also talk trade.
I hope that President Obama will put the U.S.-Mexico trucking issue behind us by resolving this job killing, baseless, stand-off; U.S. manufacturers and farmers must pay hundreds of millions in high tariffs and these products cost so much as to be non-competitive. We cannot be taken seriously as a global leader on trade when we don't even play by the rules we helped establish.
Gary Shapiro is the president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,000 U.S. technology companies.