Texas governor Greg Abbott backed down on extra inspections for vehicles from one part of Mexico on Wednesday as a domestic US clash over immigration policy created delays threatening billions of dollars in international trade.
The additional checks introduced by Abbott last week — which he said were meant to reduce crime and increase vehicle safety — added hours to usual crossing times and led to long backlogs at important ports of entry along Texas’s more than 1,200-mile border with Mexico.
Truck drivers south of the border had blockaded some of the entry points in protest at the onerous measures, adding to the chaos and further imperilling supply chains already under strain.
At a news conference with Samuel García, governor of Mexico’s Nuevo León state, on Wednesday, Abbott said Texas would return to the previous practice of random inspections at the shared ports of entry. García said he had agreed that the portion of the border would be continuously patrolled by state police.
“The bridge from Nuevo León and Texas will return to normal effectively immediately, right now,” Abbott said.
However, the move will only ease congestion at one crossing for now.
Most of Texas’s southern border is shared with Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua states. Abbott said he had been contacted by those governors and would hold talks starting as soon as Thursday, signalling his intent to resolve the trade dispute in piecemeal deals at the state level.
“I look forward to working with all of them toward achieving results similar to what we are achieving today with Governor García,” he said, adding that in the meantime the additional checks would be in place.
Abbott, who is up for re-election in November, introduced the additional checks amid a domestic battle with the Democratic Biden administration over federal immigration policy. The border check measures, however, drew the ire of local Republican business leaders.
Mexico, which is the US’s biggest trading partner, also protested that the more than $440bn in annual trade flows that crossed through Texas entry points were at risk.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that Abbott’s measures were unnecessary, hurt jobs and raised prices.
As the leaders were speaking, trucks were still facing long delays in crossing the border. Blockades at two important crossings in Ciudad Juarez had been lifted on Wednesday, local media reported.
Industries from carmakers to agriculture have been affected by the delays. Daniel Gudiño, chief executive of Mexican lime exporter SiCar Farms, said his company had citrus stuck at crossings that was at risk of spoiling.
“If this is prolonged it’ll break the supply chain and inventories,” he said. “The consumer at the end of the day will always be the most affected because the prices will stay high or rise again.”
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