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Hoffa: Mexico truck bill veto could be overridden

DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- Teamsters union President James Hoffa said Wednesday that allies in Congress likely have the votes needed to override a threatened veto of a bill requiring Mexican trucks entering the United States to meet U.S. standards.

The White House opposes the move, arguing it would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Support from the 1.4-million member Teamsters helped President Bush get his energy bill through the House earlier this month. But the Teamsters have split with Bush on the bill requiring Mexican trucks to meet American standards.

"We're talking about safety on American highways. Why would we compromise that?" Hoffa told CNN. "Why would we have one standard for American trucks and Canadian trucks and then a lower standard for Mexican trucks?"

To fulfill U.S. obligations under NAFTA, Bush wants to let Mexican vehicles travel through the United States starting January 1. Current law restricts Mexican truckers to a 20-mile zone north of the border.

In an appearance in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Wednesday, Bush called the proposed rules "discrimination against Mexico." Mexican President Vicente Fox also opposes the bill and warned earlier this month that U.S. trucks will not be allowed beyond Mexico's border zone if the measure becomes law.

But if Bush vetoes a bill, Hoffa said, earlier congressional votes suggest that supporters could roll back the veto. In the Senate, "We had 70 votes on it for cloture. It was 65-35 on some of the votes regarding cross-border trucking. I think we're OK," Hoffa said.

Supporters of the rules say Mexican trucks have a much higher inspection failure rate than U.S. or Canadian trucks. Hoffa said the rules would protect not only U.S. drivers, but Mexican drivers as well.

"We want to raise the standards for our Mexican brothers. We want to make sure they have safer trucks. We want to make sure they have the training so they can drive on our highways," he said.

"We're not going to compromise our safety standards here in the United States just so we can abide by some trade agreement," he added. "This is not a pact that's a suicide pact."

• Teamsters
• The White House

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