Mexico steps up tariffs on US goods over truck ban

MEXICO CITY – The bullfight between Mexico and the U.S. took another turn Monday as Mexico announced it will increase tariffs to a total of 99 U.S. products, up from the 89 announced in March 2009.

Despite indications that the end of the 15-month old trade spat was nearing, Mexico stepped up the tariffs, likely to pressure the Obama administration in reviving the cross-border truck program that was cancelled shortly after Obama took office.

The list of products affected will reportedly be released later this week. Several food products, including pork and fruit exports, are rumored to be part of the tariffs.

The administration had signaled that it was working on a new pilot project which would allow select Mexican truckers beyond the 20-mile restriction zone, apparently the Mexicans grew tired of waiting.

According to the Associated Press, the Mexican Economy Department predicts this latest step will affect about $2.5 billion worth of trade involving agricultural and industrial products from 43 U.S. states.

The department says the suspension of the 2007 pilot program violated the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In 2001, a dispute-resolution panel agreed, which prompted the Bush Administration from opening up the border to approved Mexican carriers.

The pilot project was widely condemned by the Teamsters union and other protectionist groups.

In response to this latest move, Teamsters President Jim Hoffa urged the federal government not to give in and to "challenge Mexico’s decision to subject more U.S. imports to tariffs."

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