Long-haul trucking between the United States and Mexico is expected to resume shortly under an agreement signed this week by U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood and his counterpart in Mexico.

The agreement will have a major, positive impact on trade between the U.S. and Mexico, America’s third largest trading partner. It should represent a major boost in California agricultural exports to its neighbor to the south.

The U.S. and Mexico once had a cross-border trucking agreement, but it was terminated in March 2009 by the Obama administration.

The agreement to re-open the border to cross-border trucking is expected to lift retaliatory tariffs on more than $2 billion in U.S. manufactured goods and agricultural products.

Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League, praised the agreement.

“We expect tariffs on grapes, apricots, cherries and pears will be halved (20 percent to 10 percent) as we draw closer to full resolution on the dispute over allowing Mexican trucks and drivers to operate on long hauls from Mexico into the U.S.” Bedwell said.

The agreement provides that Mexico will suspend 50 percent of the retaliatory tariffs within 10 days. Mexico will suspend the remainder of the tariffs within five days of the first Mexican trucking company receiving its U.S. operating authority. As a result, Mexican tariffs that now range from 5 percent to 25 percent on an array of U.S. agricultural and industrial products such as apples, certain pork products, and personal care products would be immediately cut in half and will disappear entirely within a few months.

Ending the two-year trade dispute was welcome news to California’s fresh grape farmers, who were hit particularly hard by the border closing two years ago.

“Mexico has been a vital market for California’s fresh grape industry, and it was important to get this issue resolved as soon as possible,” said Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission. “This was a complex trade issue and California’s fresh grape industry was hurt as a result.”

Fresh grapes were among 89 products included on Mexico’s retaliation list, and received the highest tariff imposed on any product.

“On behalf of the growers and shippers of California’s fresh grape and deciduous tree fruit communities, I applaud the U.S. and Mexico for the commitment to reinvigorate the cross-border trucking program between the two countries, thus improving trade relations and halving retaliatory tariffs which severely impacted shipments of domestic produce to Mexico,” Bedwell said.