June 1, 2009 / 4:33 PM / 10 years ago

Mexican truckers sue U.S. government over ban

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican truckers are suing the United States for $6 billion over Washington’s refusal to allow Mexican haulers onto its roads as required under the NAFTA trade pact, a trucking association said on Monday.

About 4,500 trucking companies represented by Mexico’s National Cargo Transportation Association (Canacar) are involved in the lawsuit, according to Canacar.

The United States agreed under NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada — to let Mexican trucks use its highways beginning in 1995.

But Mexican firms have remained confined to a narrow border area amid strong opposition from U.S. labor unions and consumer groups that say Mexican truck safety standards are lax.

Mexico slapped punitive tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of U.S. exports in March after the U.S. Congress ended a 2007 program that opened up American highways to some Mexican long-haul trucks.

The dispute raised fears of a trade war but Mexico has said it plans no further sanctions and will seek a negotiated solution to the impasse. Total trade between the United States and Mexico was $368 billion last year.

The issue of allowing Mexican trucks into the United States has been a sore point between the two nations for years.

A NAFTA tribunal ruled in 2001 the United States had violated the treaty by restricting Mexican trucks to a narrow stretch along its border but Mexico opted not to impose sanctions at the time.

Companies can sue the governments of the three NAFTA signatory nations if they think they have been unfairly treated by public policies.

Reporting by Robert Campbell; Editing by Eric Beech

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