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Nov. 29, 2000

NAFTA Truck Ruling Imperils U.S. Public Safety

NAFTA's Plummeting Image: Now Safe Highways Are a Trade Barrier

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, a NAFTA dispute tribunal issued an interim ruling that could jeopardize the safety of everyone who drives on America s highways. The panel ruled that the U.S. is violating NAFTA by prohibiting unsafe Mexican trucks from roaming freely throughout the U.S. Under NAFTA rules, if the U.S. does not agree to open the border to Mexican trucks, it faces trade sanctions.

Public Citizen urges the U.S. government to work to obtain a reversal of this interim ruling. However, if the final NAFTA panel ruling remains against the public interest, the U.S. must accept the trade sanctions and in the name of safety, keep the border closed.

"The safety of our highways must not be compromised, no matter the price," said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. "Keeping Mexican trucks within a limited border area is essential for the safety of U.S. highways. The serious safety problems with the Mexican truck fleet have not been addressed since President Clinton first refused to open the border. Granting unlimited U.S. highway access to deadly Mexican trucks was then -- and is now -- an astoundingly bad idea." Claybrook served as the top U.S. auto safety official in the Carter administration.

U.S. Department of Transportation data show that Mexican carriers licensed to operate in the U.S. are more than three times as likely to have safety deficiencies as U.S. carriers. Common safety problems include faulty brakes, tires, taillights and brake lights. The problems found with Mexican trucks are among the top causes of serious crashes. In Mexico, trucks are allowed to carry heavier loads. Mexican truck drivers have no hours-of-service limitations compared to the limits set on U.S. drivers of 10 hours of continuous driving. While operating in the U.S., Mexican trucks are supposed to comply with U.S. standards, but the U.S. does not have enough inspectors to ensure that trucks crossing the border follow U.S. regulations.

"This ruling is exhibit A in the case for why NAFTA is a backwards, damaging agreement that the public dislikes more each time it trounces public safety in the name of an extreme corporate-managed trade agenda," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Added Claybrook, "This ruling is particularly galling because it allows unelected bureaucrats essentially to overturn American laws and safety standards. It is also appalling that the ruling was based on trade alone; the panel refused to hear evidence about safety and the risks that the trucks pose to the American public."

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