Mexico President Vincente Fox says he will close his country to U.S. trucks if the United States won’t fully open its border to Mexican trucks.

Fox said in an interview with The Washington Post he doesn’t think truck safety or what U.S. President George W. Bush called an “anti-Hispanic” attitude being taken by lawmakers, but lack of attention to the subject.

“But in the meantime, what is not fair is that we don't have respect to something that was agreed upon, that is signed, and that by now it should be implemented,” Fox told the newspaper, adding that Pres. Bush and his administration are trying their best to comply with the commitments built up by NAFTA.

The Senate last month approved the transportation appropriations bill, which includes 22 new safety provisions Mexican trucks will have to meet before being permitted to travel in the U.S. The provisions approved by the Senate are tougher than those approved by Congress in July and could stall Pres. Bush’s plan to give Mexican trucks full access to U.S. highways by January 1.

U.S. Transportation secretary Norman Y. Mineta recently said that 23% of Mexican trucks entering California have failed inspections, a figure comparable with the failure rate shown by U.S. trucks. Fox told the U.S. Congress that if Mexican trucks don't come in the United States, U.S. trucks will not go into Mexico. He said there has to be a partnership deal.

“If we're going to have regulations, we must agree upon them – the regulations that we will impose on Mexico, the regulations that you would impose in United States.” Fox said. “We all knew that this was coming 10 years in advance, but when the point then comes in, we didn't have the details discussed of the regulations, of the ways we need to operate, the logistics of it.”

Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), established in 1994, to improve trade between all three nations. Among other provisions, NAFTA gave trucking companies from all three nations the right to operate freely within their neighbor’s borders. However, the U.S. has delayed full implementation of those rights for Mexican truckers, largely because of concerns over Mexican truck safety. Currently, Mexican trucks can only operate within a 20-mile border area in four southwestern states.