Heritage Fellow James E. Roberts has been one of the earliest and most vocal trade experts urging the reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico Trucking program.  The pilot program, intended to ensure American compliance with the North American Free Trade Agreement, was recently ended by Congress and President Obama because of the poison pill provision slipped into the Omnibus Spending bill.  As a result of this action, the government of Mexico retaliated by placing tariffs on nearly 90 U.S. products worth an estimated $2.4 billion.

Yesterday, at an international trade symposium in Miami, many other experts in the field joined Roberts in saying a return of the program was necessary and Mexico was in the right to retaliate.

Several leading trade experts support Mexico’s trade retaliation against the United States for violating the North American free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Last week, Mexico announced that it would slap tariffs of 10 percent to 45 percent on at least 90 U.S. products after U.S. lawmakers stopped a pilot program that had been in place since April 2007 allowing a select number of Mexican trucks free access to the United States after passing safety tests.

“Mexico’s retaliation was only surprising in that they were so patient taking so long,” Gary Hufbauer, the Reginald Jones Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said today during a meeting in Miami organized by the law firm Hughes Hubbard. “This has gone on since 1994.”

Kenneth Pierce, a Hughes Hubbard partner specializing in international trade issues, agrees. “The Mexicans are right,” he said during the meeting. “They won the NAFTA case,” he said referring to a NAFTA arbitration panel that in 2001 ruled that a U.S. delay of allowing the trucks in was illegal.

NAFTA called for the United States to permit Mexican trucks first in the border states in December 1995 and then throughout the country in January 2000. But due to opposition by U.S. unions and their backers on Capital Hill, the move was repeatedly delayed. “We have denied them their greatest advantage to the U.S.,” said Hufbauer, who has written several books on NAFTA. “It does hurt Mexico in terms of proximity to U.S.”