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Obama Criticized For Mexico, Brazil Sanctions

U. S. Republicans and business groups criticized President Barack Obama’s administration March 11 for failing to resolve a cross-border trucking dispute nearly one year after Mexico slapped retaliatory duties on about $2.4 billion worth of U. S. exports.

“Record numbers of Americans are receiving an unemployment cheque instead of a paycheque. We need to make it easier for employers to create jobs and export American-made goods. Yet this administration is doing just the opposite,” Representative Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement.

John Murphy, vice-president for international policy at the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, also criticized the administration for failing to prevent Brazil on Monday from announcing an estimated $591 million in new trade retaliation in a separate spat over the U. S. cotton subsidies and export supports.

The United States agreed to open its market to Mexican trucks as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement that went into force in 1994, but the U. S. Teamsters union and many of its supporters in Congress have fought implementation of the pledge.

One year ago, Congress voted to cancel funding for a cross-border pilot program begun by former president George W. Bush’s administration that allowed Mexican long-haul trucks to circulate in the United States.

CANADIANS FILL THE GAP

The move infuriated Mexico, which retaliated by imposing duties on U. S. exports, including fruit, vegetables and industrial goods worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

It was entitled to take that action under a 2001 NAFTA panel ruling in the trucking dispute in Mexico’s favour.

A U. S. Chamber of Commerce study estimates the tariffs could cost 25,000 American jobs, as other countries like Canada or Colombia supply Mexico with goods that used to be sold by the United States.

John Keeling, executive vice-president of the National Potato Council, told reporters it was “very easy” for Canadian french-fried potato producers to fill the gap after U. S. fries were shut out of Mexico by the tariffs.

“From April to December, U. S. exports of frozen processed potatoes have fallen by 50 per cent in value and at that same time, Canadian exports have risen by almost an identical amount,” Keeling said.

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