WASHINGTON – The agreement signed July 6 by Mexico and the United States to resolve the cross-border long-haul trucking dispute was lauded by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who called this step to end the crisis “a major win for US agriculture.”

“President Obama and President Calderon announced a path forward in March to resolve the dispute, and today the US Department of Transportation – after months of hard work with Mexican counterparts – closed a deal that will provide tariff relief for numerous US agricultural products and manufactured goods,” he said.

To date, the dispute has cost US businesses more than $2 billion, Vilsack said. “For US farm exports to Mexico, exports of affected commodities were reduced by 27 percent,” he added. “But thanks to the persistent work of the Obama Administration, we have an agreement that not only will ultimately eliminate punitive tariffs, but it also provides opportunities to increase US exports to Mexico and helps to expand jobs on both sides of the border.”

Vilsack pointed out the agreement puts the US and Mexico on equal footing pertaining to their obligations under the North American Free-Trade Agreement by authorizing Mexican and US long-haul carriers to engage in cross-border operations subject to certain requirements.

“Officials at the Department of Transportation say the new long-haul cross-border trucking program with Mexico established by this agreement will begin a phased-in program built on the highest safety standards,” Vilsack said.

On July 8, the phase-ins will begin when Mexico reduces the existing tariffs on US goods by 50 percent. The remaining 50 percent will be suspended within five business days from the date on which the first Mexican carrier receives authorization under the new program.

“Potentially, we're looking at a total lifting of the punitive tariffs in as little as 45 days,” Vilsack said. “Moreover, Mexican carriers participating in the program are subject to certain requirements which will not allow them to haul domestic cargo between points within the US, which creates additional opportunities for American businesses and workers.”

Mexico is US agriculture's third-ranked trading partner, buying $14.5 billion of US farm goods last year. To date in 2011, exports to Mexico are up approximately 25 percent.