LISTEN to Senator Murray question Secretary LaHood (Question starts at 5:40)
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), pushed Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to move faster on a plan to resume cross-border trucking with Mexico. Murray raised her concerns with LaHood about the impact of Mexican retaliatory tariffs on Washington state’s agricultural industry, and urged him to resolve the situation to save American jobs while ensuring the safety of the public at large.
Last year, Senator Murray sent a letter to President Obama urging him to work towards a swift solution that would result in the removal of prohibitive tariffs, and would also address international trucking and safety concerns so that those issues could no longer be used as an excuse for imposing tariffs.
The retaliatory tariffs have severely harmed the Washington state agriculture industry, especially farmers of cherries, pears, and potatoes.
According to the Washington State Potato Commission 20,000 jobs are supported by the potato industry alone in Washington state, and thousands of these would be threatened if this issue is not resolved soon.
Read the full exchange below:
Murray: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask one last question on a topic that we discussed at our hearing last year: cross-border trucking with Mexico. Last year, you discussed the work you were doing with the various Departments to craft a plan to resume cross- border trucking with Mexico in a way that would address the safety concerns raised during the pilot and end the tariffs imposed by the Mexican government.
These tariffs were imposed on over 90 U.S. products, and they undermine the competitiveness of many agricultural products produced in Washington state. If we’re not able to find a path forward with Mexico on this issue, these tariffs will send American jobs north to Canada as growers, processors and packers are forced to relocate--threatening the livelihood of many communities in Washington state.
I appreciate that there are many concerns about implementing cross border trucking. But we’ve got to work with the Mexican’s to address this impasse and move forward. I’ve met with Ambassador Kirk to discuss my concerns about this as well.
Can you please update us the discussions within the Administration and with Mexico and give us a sense of when we might see a plan?
LaHood: We are finalizing a plan, the reason it’s taken so long is because there’s a lot of different moving parts, including about five different cabinet officials and every time we make a tweak or a change everybody has to sign-off on it, but we’re very near a proposal that we think will meet all of the safety concerns that I heard when I talked to 25 members of Congress. We’re close to talking to all of you about what we think our way of addressing the safety concerns that congress brought to us.”
Murray: Mr. Secretary, I appreciate that. And you and I have had this discussion; I know you’re working on it. This is critical to a number of our agricultural industries now in my state. Would you please tell the folks you’re talking to in the White House and others that we need to get this done?”
LaHood: I will.