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'Three Amigos Summit' highlights split on trade

Post photo-op smiles, North American leaders resume tough stance on trade.

Pressure for the clause had come directly from the Teamsters, who have long opposed competition from the Mexican 18-wheelers on their turf and use the complaint that the foreign truckers don't meet U.S. safety standards.

Mexican officials reacted angrily to the action, pointing out that under the North American Free Trade Agreement, their trucks should have been permitted to haul cargo the width and breadth of the union from 2000 onward.

"We consider that the United States is mistaken, protectionist and clearly violating the treaty," Mexican Economy Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Mateos said following that move.

In retaliation, Mexico slapped tariffs on 90 U.S. products — ranging from onions and shaving cream to fruit juice and red wine — worth a total of $2.4 billion in trade. Obama had promised in March he would quickly resolve the dispute and many pundits had predicted a new agreement in Guadalajara to get Mexican trucks driving in “El Norte.”

But no such concrete measure came out of the summit.

Instead, the three “amigos” signed a joint statement condemning such policies in very general language.

“North American trade is a vital component of our economic well-being and we pledge to abide by our international responsibilities and avoid protectionist measures,” the statement said.

The worry about the United States turning inward is particularly intense in Mexico because the Mexican economy rests on it.

Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, Mexico increasingly geared its economy toward trading with its northern neighbor.

Under favorable terms, assembly plants and sweat shops multiplied across the country churning out everything from washing machines to the SUVs for American consumers.