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Mexico Slaps New Tariffs On U.S. Pork Etc Over Trucking Dispute

Aug 18, 2010

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Frank James

The lengthy trade war between the U.S. and Mexico expanded Wednesday as Mexico slapped more tariffs on certain products from north of the border, retaliation for continued U.S. resistance to Mexican trucks operating in the states.

Certain cuts of pork are among the U.S. products that will be more expensive for Mexicans to purchase now that the Mexican government has placed a 5 percent tariff on the other white meat. For instance, pork houlders with the bone in are included.

U.S. pork producers are, as you'd expect, singing the blues, as NPRs Scott Horsley reported for All Things Considered. An excerpt from his report:

SCOTT: For the last decade and a half, Craig Hill has been one of the beneficiaries of the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Now, he could become one of its casualties.  Hill is a hog farmer in Warren County, Iowa.

HILL: "We're a family operation.  My son and I  and wife all participate in the labor here. And we've got about 1600 pigs on feed and farm about 1700 acres."

SCOTT: When Hill started farming in the late 1970s, nearly all American pork was sold domestically.  Now, Hill says about a quarter is shipped to other countries, including jamon or carnitas sold in Mexico.

HILL: "We depend a great deal on exports here in the US.  And I think Mexico is one of our better customers."

SCOTT: So Hill is greatly concerned about the 5-percent pork tariff that Mexico announced today.  Mexico took the action to protest America's failure to let Mexican trucks travel its roadways.  Under NAFTA, Mexican trucks were supposed to have access years ago.

But Congress has kept them out, under pressure from the Teamsters union.  Although the few Mexican trucks that have been allowed in showed no unusual safety problems, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa insists they present a threat.

HOFFA: "To let these truck drivers and trucks on our highways that do not meet our standards is to endanger the public. That's why we're against it."

Of course, NAFTA supporters say the organized labor is also worried about competition from non-unionized drivers from Mexico.

It places President Barack Obama in a no-win situation since he has made it a his adminstration's goal to place the U.S. on a trajectory to double U.S. exports within five years.

But the Teamsters provided him strong support in 2008. And the way things are going for him, he can't afford to alienate any more major pieces of the Democratic base.

The Mexican government provided the list of products affected by the new round of tariffs. They include wines, soups, soy sauce, ketchup, carpeting and Christmas trees.

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