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Obama's Mexico Visit Spotlights Division among Democrats

4:35 PM, Apr 16, 2009 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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One of the topics to be addressed today by President Obama and his Mexican counterpart is the unilateral violation of NAFTA signed into law by Obama:

The trucking pilot program was created in 2007, and statistics show that the few Mexican trucks allowed to operate in the U.S. do better on safety reviews than American truckers. Mexico felt the program had performed well enough to be expanded.

Instead it took just days for Obama and congressional Democrats to do the bidding of the Teamsters union and cancel the program - unilaterally, without debate, and without discussing it with our treaty partner. Mexico declared the U.S. in violation of NAFTA (which the arbitration panel had already made clear) and imposed tariffs on 90 different items, specifically designed to impact states represented by those who killed the program - among them Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Sources in Mexico say they will impose additional tariffs soon if the U.S. doesn't move to comply.

Obama canceled the trucking program as a sop to the Teamsters, who strongly oppose any effort to reinstate it. Nevertheless, the Obama administration claims that it intends to push aggressively to restore the program they canceled. And just in case that doesn't happen, Obama is attempting to improve strained relations by enhancing cooperation on border security and drug interdiction.

That sounds good, except for the fact that some in Congress want to escalate the low-level trade skirmish between the U.S. and Mexico into a full-blown trade war. Congressman Pete DeFazio (D-OR) for example, led the effort to cancel the truck program -- and his district is significantly affected by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico on imported U.S. Christmas Trees. DeFazio wants to see the tariffs removed -- but not by restoring U.S. compliance with NAFTA. Instead, he wants to blackmail Mexico into removing them by denying them U.S. help in fighting the drug war:

DeFazio, whose state supplies many of the Christmas trees Mexico imports, called the tariffs exorbitant and said some of the targeted products were selected to get back at members of Congress who have been most outspoken against the trucking program. He called on Obama to withhold $405 million in funding pledged to the Mexican government to fight drug cartels.

It's not clear how Obama is going to resolve this festering problem. The smarter course would have been to not have violated NAFTA in the first place.