Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues for the 109th Congress

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Latin America and the Caribbean: Issues for the 109th Congress

CRS-35

strengthened border control and established identity card standards for drivers’

licenses. 8

On March 3, 2006, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and

Mexico’s Secretary of Governance Carlos Abascal signed an action plan to combat

border violence that calls for increased cooperation of law enforcement agencies and

the establishment of communication protocols to facilitate such cooperation. A June

2005 report by Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America working

groups outlined completed initiatives and proposed new initiatives to ensure common

security and prosperity. Completed initiatives include measures to facilitate trade,

such as the signing of a Framework of Common Principles for Electronic Commerce,

and border security through, among other measures, an agreement between the

United States and Mexico to create an Alien Smuggler Prosecution Program along

the common border. On November 2, 2005, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff

launched the “Secure Border Initiative” to gain operational control of U.S. borders

and reduce illegal immigration, drawing upon increased funding approved by

Congress in early October 2005. In August 2006, U.S. and Mexican border

governors agreed to share crime data.

Mexico is the United States’ second most important trading partner, with twoway

trade tripling since 1994 under the North American Free Trade Agreement

(NAFTA), but there are various disputes between the countries. Mexico has

complained, for example, that the United States is still failing to grant Mexican

trucks access to U.S. highways, in part because of congressionally-imposed safety

requirements. The United States, for example, initiated WTO dispute settlement

proceedings in 2004 to dispute Mexico’s 20% tax on soft drinks made with high

fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The tax has had a devastating impact on HFCS sales.

In November 2005, the Mexican Senate extended the tax on HFCS products. In

March 2006, the WTO Appellate Body upheld the October 2005 decision in favor of

the United States. For FY2006, the United States set a new tariff-rate quota of

250,000 metric tons of raw or refined sugar from Mexico, in keeping with Mexican

claims under NAFTA, and Mexico followed suit by allowing up to 250,000 metric

tons of HFCS from the United States in the same period. Mexico and the United

States reached a sweetener agreement in August 2006. Under the agreement, Mexico

will be able to export 500,000 metric tons of sugar duty free to the United States

from October 1, 2006, to December 31, 2007. The United States can export the same

amount of HFCS to Mexico during that period.

On drug trafficking issues, Bush Administration officials have regularly praised

Mexico’s counternarcotics efforts under Fox, especially action against major

traffickers and efforts to improve the judicial system. The State Department reported

in March 2006, however, that Mexico remained the leading transit country for

cocaine and the leading foreign supplier of methamphetamine and marijuana.

Several bills (H.R. 3889, H.R. 2601) have been reported by committees to encourage

a reduction of smuggling of methamphetamine from Mexico. In May 2006, President

8 For more information see CRS Report RL33125, Immigration Legislation and Issues in

the 109 th Congress, by Andorra Bruno, Ruth Ellen Wasem, Alison Siskin, and Blas Nunez-

Neto.

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