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Amber Alert

Friday, March 14, 2008

Truckers fret over NAFTA “renegotiation” talk

Is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) dying? Both Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama have made campaign promises to “renegotiate” the 14-year-old trade agreement that generally has resulted in a boom for U.S. trucking and railroad interests.

Since NAFTA was adopted in 1994 under the first Clinton administration, it basically created open trade, free of duties and tariffs, among the U.S. Mexico and Canada. But both Democratic candidates have sounded a protectionist tone during their campaign, threatening to renegotiate NAFTA and other free trade agreements to make them more favorable on labor and environmental grounds.

It’s hard to tell whether this is merely campaign rhetoric or an actual threat to NAFTA existence. One thing is for sure. Any talk of renegotiating NAFTA makes truckers nervous.ldquo;Since 1993, when the other Clinton signed the agreement, we’ve been in favor of NAFTA and free trade acts in general and that hasn’t changed,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves told Logistics Management. “Free trade is generally good for the American consumer and we support that.”

It also has been good for the U.S. trucking industry. Some companies, such as Indianapolis-based Celadon and Con-way’s CFI unit, garner more than 40 percent of their revenue from the lucrative north-south trade in and out of Mexico.

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