WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama's administration hopes to assemble a proposal to resolve a trucking dispute with Mexico before he visits the country in mid-April, an official said on Tuesday.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood "wants to get something pulled together before the president goes to Mexico," an administration official familiar with the issue said.
Last week, Mexico imposed higher tariffs on an estimated $2.4 billion worth of goods from the United States in retaliation for Congress' decision to end a pilot program to allow Mexico trucks to operate in the United States.
The United States committed in the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico to open its roads to Mexican trucks, but the U.S. Teamsters union has continued to fight that.
LaHood has been working with other Obama administration officials and members of Congress to design a program that would allow Mexican trucks into the United States, the administration official said.
Mexico wants to work with the United States to resolve the dispute but rejects the explanation that Congress shut down the program for safety concerns, Mexico's Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan said.
"This is not about the safety of American roads and American drivers. This is protectionism," Sarukhan said at an event hosted by the Council of the Americas.
The cross-border trucking pilot program canceled by Congress as part of massive spending bill signed by Obama already took into account safety concerns, Sarukhan said.
The request now by lawmakers for additional measures is "moving the goal posts," he said.
Obama is scheduled to visit Mexico April 16-17 on his way to a meeting of regional leaders in Trinidad.
"We will wait to see what the proposal looks like," Sarukhan said. "But we are certainly willing to continue working cooperatively to find a solution that ensures the United States complies with its NAFTA obligations."
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