The U.S. has begun accepting applications from Mexican trucking companies seeking authorization for long-haul, cross-border transportation under the North American Free Trade agreement.

The move sets up opening the border to Mexican long-haul trucks.

The State Department says the policy change is "a significant milestone" in the implementation of NAFTA and will end retaliatory sanctions.

It comes after a three-year pilot program to evaluate the safety of Mexican truck companies that ended in October. Fifteen Mexican companies took part, crossing the border over 28,000 times and logging more than 1.5 million miles in the United States.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Thursday in a statement that the pilot showed Mexican long-haul companies are as safe as U.S. and Canadian trucking operations.

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American long-haul companies have been operating in Mexico under NAFTA since 2007.

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