NAFTA Highway

The proposal for a NAFTA highway dedicated to moving shipments from Mexico to the interior of the United States and Canada is a threat to our national security, and it would accelerate the give-away of American jobs and erosion of U.S. sovereignty.

Imagine the United States split apart from north to south. The two parts of the country would each have a new border where they were previously joined. That border would be approximately 1,700 miles long for each of the two parts. So the division of the country would add approximately 3,400 additional miles of border to the country. That in effect is what would happen if the United States opened up a new highway system from the Mexican to the Canadian border dedicated to moving commerce into and through our country.

The United States already has porous border control on both its northern and southern borders. In an age when the United States is under threat from Islamic terrorists, the idea of further exposing Americans to the terrorist threat by expanding its border vulnerability, is unthinkable. For example, The El Paso Times of January 30, 2006 reported the arrest in El Paso, Texas of three truck drivers who were attempting to smuggle undocumented immigrants inside tractor-trailers. Actually, there are two separate NAFTA highway proposals one that would move foreign imports into the United States from ports on the Mexican Pacific Coast and one for imports from the Mexican Gulf Coast. Doubling the highways through the heartland of the United States would double the amount of new border vulnerability.

Rather than containers arriving from abroad being inspected at U.S. ports of entry for produce that is banned for safety, security, or commercial reasons, under the NAFTA highway concept, the inspection would not occur until the containers are already in the United States. That is a security threat as well as an increased threat that alien smugglers would be able to get their human cargo into areas of the country where enforcement would be more difficult.

Who’s Behind the Highway Proposal?

It’s easy to understand why exporters such as China would back the NAFTA highway proposal. The highway would shorten the distance of land transportation to the interior of the United States for their exports and, thereby, reduce costs and make them more competitive. It is easy to understand why Mexico would see an advantage: Mexican workers would unload the ships arriving at Mexican ports and Mexican drivers would get the work transporting those imports into and through the United States.

In the United States, importers and manufacturers who increasingly rely on imported foreign components would stand to benefit from reduced costs of those imports. In addition, the proposal would advance the agenda of globalists to promote free trade and more fully integrate the United States economy into the global economy.

Who Would Lose?

Besides the obvious security threat of vastly expanding our border vulnerability, it is obvious that the increased use of Mexican ports would be a means for shippers to avoid use of U.S. ports. Mexican workers would gain the work of U.S. longshoremen; the lower wages paid Mexican workers would benefit the exporters and importers. At the same time, U.S. workers would either lose their jobs or be forced to accept wage cuts in order to keep their jobs. Similarly, lower-wage Mexican truck drivers would gain the work of higher-earning U.S. truckers.

As Teamsters President Jim Hoffa commented on trade pacts that give U.S. jobs to foreign workers, “It's no surprise that the Bush administration is once again placing the insatiable greed of big business over the safety and economic security of Americans.” 1

From Concept to Reality

The NAFTA highway is more than a concept. The promoters of a U.S. port of entry on the NAFTA highway in Kansas City, Mo. proclaim on their website, "The idea of receiving containers nonstop from the Far East by way of Mexico may sound unlikely, but... that seemingly far-fetched notion will become a reality." Wal-Mart, which would be a prime merchandiser of goods imported and shipped over the highway has already partnered with a Chinese firm Hutchison Whampoa in a $300 million expansion of the Mexican port of Lazaro Cardenas to handle perhaps 2 million containers annually by the end of the decade.

 A commentary by William Hawkins, a U.S. Business and Industry Council fellow, notes that, “the American Chamber of Commerce in Guangdong, China, has held seminars promoting this Mexican port.” He also comments that the Mexican port at “Punta Colonet, about 150 miles south of Tijuana, is also eyed for expansion to offload millions of additional containers filled with Asian imports.” 2 That concept is behind the proposal for the second NAFTA highway.

The Kansas City Freeport already exists as a rail, air, and land hub for imported goods. The in-land port’s website says that its business is growing because of increased shipments entering the U.S. under NAFTA. It promotes its availability for expansion on the basis of, 

  •   “The largest rail center in the United States by tonnage, 
  •  more Foreign Trade Zone space than any other U.S. city (over 10,000 acres), and 
  •  located at the intersection of three of the nation’s major interstate highways (I-35, I-70, I-29) and soon to be 4th - I-49.” 3

To implement the NAFTA highway would require opening up dedicated land ports of entry on the Mexican and Canadian borders which would allow Mexican or Canadian trucks to enter our country without inspection and to continue to inland ports of entry, such as the Kansas City Freeport before their cargo is unloaded and subject to inspection. In theory, the highway would have to be limited access so that the only points of access or egress would be international ports. Those issues imply the need for fencing along the entire route to limit unauthorized access or egress. There is also a possible need for agreements with Mexico and Canada governing issues such as access controls, liability, insurance, and safety requirements.  All these provisions imply a need for federal involvement. And, federal involvement implies a need for authorization and appropriations by Congress.

To the extent that the NAFTA highway requires Congressional action to get off the ground, those opposed to it have an opportunity to work to deter it through their elected representatives.

November 2008

[1] Mr. Hoffa's commentary, “This is What Happens When Trade Pacts Pit Worker Against Worker,” appeared in The Detroit News, July 14, 2006.

[2] William Hawkins, “NAFTA highway or new silk road?” Washington Times, September 24, 2006.

[3] See, website consulted January 9, 2007.