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One year later, costly trade blunder still in effect

 Washington State Potato Commission
While job loss and economic ruin are being suffered by U.S. citizens and addressed by the Obama administration and lawmakers with a flurry of stimulus funds, one legitimate way to help national recovery is being ignored—and it doesn’t take loans from other nations to do it. 
 
March 10 marks the one-year anniversary of Congress’s decision to terminate the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, a move found illegal under NAFTA and generating retaliatory tariffs on more than 90 U.S. products and subsequent decreases in exports. 
 
In the last year, the 20 per cent tariffs Mexico has levied on U.S. frozen potato product imports has resulted a 50 percent decrease in shipments to Mexico. At the same time, shipments of the same potato products from Canada to Mexico are up more than 60 per cent.  
 
“This continued inaction is hurting the Washington potato industry and directly adding to a reduction in acres and reduced hours at processing plants,” said Connell potato grower Ted Tschirky, chair of the Washington State Potato Commission. The Commission has been a consistent voice in protesting the lack of a remedy. 
 
Mexican trucks are allowed to operate within about 25 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and under a DOT pilot program begun in 2007, limited Mexican carriers were allowed access to all U.S. roads. Language to terminate the program was included in an appropriation bill approved by Congress and signed by the President a year ago. 
 
Washington Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell recently questioned U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on the issue. The administration responded by saying they are still working on a resolution, but gave no indication of when it would happen. 
 
A group of 56 U.S. lawmakers, including Congressmen Rick Larsen, Doc Hastings, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott and Dave Reichert of Washington State, have urged the administration to resolve the dispute. The current situation is “unsustainable and untenable,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter sent to LaHood and Kirk. 
 
“Our constituents need help immediately and we implore you to work quickly to implement a solution that ensures safety and normalizes trade,” the letter stated. “Please communicate your plans for a solution so we are better able to understand the administration’s strategy.” 
 
The failure of Congress and the administration to uphold the international agreement allows further economic decline and frustration along the export chain. 
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The mission of the Washington State Potato Commission is to serve the potato growers of Washington State by facilitating the awareness and value of Washington state potatoes.