WASHINGTON – The National Pork Producers Council (N.P.P.C.) and state pork producer organizations urged the Obama administration on March 15 to resolve a dispute with Mexico over allowing its trucks into the U.S. as rumors that the Mexican government may update a trade retaliation list against U.S. products swirled.

In March 2009, the Mexican government imposed higher tariffs on an estimated $2.4 billion of U.S. goods after the U.S. Congress failed to renew a pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucking companies to work beyond the 25-mile commercial zone that was created in the U.S. N.P.P.C. worked to keep pork off that retaliation list.

The association and 37 state producer associations asked in a letter to President Obama that the U.S. government live up to a provision in the 1994 North American Free-Trade Agreement (N.A.F.T.A.) that allows Mexican trucks to haul freight into and out of the U.S.

Mexican trucks had been operating in the U.S. under the Cross-Border Trucking Pilot Program, which was started by the U.S. Department of Transportation in September 2007 as a way to begin implementing the N.A.F.T.A. trucking provision. That provision was supposed to begin in December 1995 and take full effect by Jan. 1, 2000.

Congress, however, refused to renew the pilot program or to implement the N.A.F.T.A. provision, citing concerns about the safety of Mexican trucks even though under the pilot program they were held to the same safety standards as U.S. trucks and were examined and cleared by U.S. inspectors. A N.A.F.T.A. dispute-settlement panel in February 2001 ruled that the exclusion of Mexican trucks violated U.S. obligations under N.A.F.T.A. The ruling gave Mexico the right to retaliate against U.S. products entering Mexico.

“We need to get this trucking issue resolved,” said Sam Carney, N.P.P.C. president and a pork producer from Adair, Iowa, “Mexico is an important market for U.S. pork, which right now isn’t on the retaliation list, but it could be. More importantly, this needs to be resolved so our trading partners have assurance that the U.S. will live up to its trade obligations.”

The U.S. exported more than 503,000 metric tons of pork worth more than $762 million to Mexico in 2009, making it the No. 2 market for U.S. pork exports.