Taking the Brakes Off NAFTA

Congress and the Bush administration have finally welded together a compromise that will allow Mexican trucks to roll onto US highways. This is a long-overdue step toward full implementation of the NAFTA agreement. These trucks should have had full access by 2000.

The political blockage that kept the Mexican trucks at bay for so long included some legitimate concerns. Truck-safety standards in Mexico were inadequate.

But the Mexicans beefed up their regulations, and the types of assurances built into this week's compromise, such as regular comprehensive safety checks of Mexican trucking companies, could have come sooner. One reason they didn't was potent opposition by the Teamsters Union to any generalized access to US roads for Mexican truckers. The union was perfectly happy with the requirement of American drivers taking over 20 miles beyond the border.

The economic benefits to both countries from removing this impediment to NAFTA now can flow - and none too soon, given the brakes being applied by the current recession. President Bush and NAFTA supporters in Congress were right to hold out for a deal that allowed reasonably open access for Mexican trucks. This result had been called for by a NAFTA arbitration panel last February.

Those concerned about safety were right to demand more effective inspections, too.

It's good to have proof that well dug-in political sides can still find reasonable common ground.

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