MEXICO CITY — A program to allow Mexican trucks to operate in the U.S. could be "up and running" in four to six months, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Monday, the Wall Street Journal has reported.Speaking at the meeting of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Free Trade Commission here, Kirk said the U.S. "would like to sit down and begin" negotiations with Mexico in the next week.
But the discussions are only part of a series of ifs and but, the Journal reported, including whether the Department of Transportation thinks an agreement to allow cross-border trucking can be reached and if the U.S. Congress passes enabling legislation.
Then, Kirk said, a new program could be "up and running as quickly as within the next four to six months."
For his part, Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said he was "cautiously optimistic" about an initiative the U.S. presented last week to begin talks between the two countries designed to lift a U.S. ban on Mexican truckers operating north of the border, the newspaper said.
Mexico's Economy Ministry estimates Mexico and the U.S. exchange goods worth $1 billion a day, 70 percent of it by ground.
Kirk’s comment comes less than a week after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a series of concepts for a new program, which drew praise from program proponents and criticism from opponents.
The most vocal Congressional critic, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said last week he would ask for hearings on the proposed concepts.
LaHood began working on a new program in early 2009 after Congress killed the Cross-Border Demonstration Project, a pilot program initiated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to see if the two countries could safely and effectively implement trade via commercial trucks.
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