U.S., Canada to align border security, regulations
The United States and Canada have agreed to study the idea of treating their common border as a permeable membrane that smoothes the way for legitimate commerce, and apply common security techniques to their outward-facing maritime and air borders.
They also committed to creating a joint Regulatory Cooperation Council to harmonize regulations on both sides of the border and reduce the impact of dual requirements on their respective economies, including transportation and trade.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcements Friday at the White House.
The leaders said their staffs would develop an action plan for a common approach to border security that, taken to its logical conclusion, could ultimately lead to travelers and trade passing through the boundary, much as they do between states and provinces within their respective jurisdictions.
The action plan is intended to implement a so-called perimeter security strategy and make border management more efficient by collaborating on screening, technologies, information-sharing and threat intelligence.
'Shared information, joint planning, compatible procedures and inspection technology will all be key tools. They make possible the effective risk management that will allow us to accelerate legitimate flows of people and goods between our countries while strengthening our physical security and economic competitiveness,' Harper said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
'So we commit to expanding our management of the border to the concept of a North American perimeter, not to replace or eliminate the border but, where possible, to streamline and decongest it.'
Harper said current security procedures discourage commerce and increase costs.
'We share security threats that are very similar on both sides of the border. We share an integrated economic space where it doesn't make sense to constantly check the same cargo over and over again,' he said.
Canada has complained for years that U.S. regulations, especially in the security realm, have been piling up in an ad hoc fashion rather than as part of a holistic approach and without regard to cost and delays associated with cross-border movements. U.S. officials have recognized they need to overhaul their approach to security so that it doesn't harm business productivity.
In a joint declaration, the governments said security efforts should support economic growth and job creation by accelerating the movement of legitimate shipments and travelers, instead of acting as an impediment. Other stated goals include strengthening the resilience of each country to bounce back from natural disasters or attacks, and the use of risk management to limit inspections to suspicious flows of goods and people.
Some specific steps the two sides plan to pursue are:
' Identity verification and screening of travelers prior to arrival at the border, using improved biometric technologies.
' Create an integrated entry/exit system so documented entry in one country is accepted by authorities in the other.
' Increased investments to modernize infrastructure at the busiest ports of entry, many of which are not equipped to handle growing traffic volumes.
' Organize bi-national port of entry committees to coordinate planning and funding, building, expanding or modernizing shared border management facilities and infrastructure where possible. The United States and Mexico already have a comparable arrangement on the Southwest border.
' Explore joint facilities and programs that can pre-clear goods and people away from the border.
' Expand trusted trader and traveler programs, harmonize existing programs and automating processes at the land border.
' Explore common processes for customs and import safety compliance.
' Develop an integrated cargo security strategy that uses compatible screening methods for goods and cargo before they depart foreign ports bound for the United States or Canada so that once they enter the territory of either they can easily cross the land border between the two countries. The United States already requires advance transmission of the manifest and importer information and Canada is in the process of establishing similar programs to enable its targeting capability.
' Establish a Beyond the Border Working Group composed of government representatives to oversee implementation of the border accord.
Officials said they wanted to similarly coordinate regulatory regimes to reduce redundant requirements.
The two leaders 'believe that regulatory cooperation can spur economic growth in each country; fuel job creation; lower costs for consumers, producers and governments; and particularly help small and medium-sized businesses. The United States and Canada intend to eliminate unnecessary burdens on cross-border trade, reduce costs, foster cross-border investment, and promote certainty for businesses and the public by coordinating, simplifying and ensuring the compatibility of regulations, where feasible,' according to a joint statement.
They said the collaboration would not diminish the sovereignty of either nation.
'We have this border that benefits when it is open. The free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both sides. And so the goal here is to make sure that we are coordinating closely and that was we are taking steps and measures to ensure both openness and security, that we're doing so in ways that enhances the relationship as opposed to creates tensions in the relationship. And we are confident that we're going to be able to do that,' Obama said.
Officials in both countries increasingly believe that more economic collaboration is necessary between the United States, Canada and Mexico to make North America competitive with other regions of the world that are drawing together. The U.S. and Canadian economies are closely entwined, with businesses on both sides partnering in manufacturing and combining to generate $500 billion in annual trade.
Canada is the largest export market for the United States and 70 percent of Canadian exports are destined to the United States.
Jayson Myers, president of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Mark Nantais, president of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association, coined the term 'intermestic' market in a commentary for Friday's Globe and Mail in Toronto to characterize the close links between many industries operating within and across their domestic markets.
Regulatory streamlining is necessary, they said, because it puts manufacturers who ship components back and forth across the border at a disadvantage compared to foreign producers who make goods in a single jurisdiction for import into either country. Each time a shipment crosses the border it is subject to the regulatory requirements of both governments, whether or not it is a finished good. The trade association chiefs compared the United States and Canada to the European Union, which has the benefit of a single customs compliance and security process for its member states.
'Canada should strengthen our highly integrated cross-border manufacturing industries through more efficient border operations and regulatory collaboration with the U.S. by building on existing trusted trader programs,' they wrote.
'Specifically, it should harmonize security and release procedures between Canada and the U.S.; cooperate with the U.S. on a perimeter approach to security and product safety; align regulations and regulatory processes; expand trusted trader programs with the goal of eliminating transactional reporting requirements for qualifying companies; and invest in trade infrastructure, with a focus on high-volume trade corridors.
'We believe this is a common-sense approach that can be implemented immediately.'
The U.S.-Canada cooperation on regulations follows Obama's executive order last month for agencies to review federal regulations with an eye towards changing rules that place unnecessary burdens on business, as long as safety, health, security and competitiveness standards are maintained. Many of the RCC's goals mirror the broader regulatory guidelines being applied by the Obama administration, namely to ensure that rules are affordable, based on sound scientific analysis, and have sufficient input from affected parties, as well as strive further to minimize burdens on smaller companies.
The effort also builds on the Smart Border Accord signed a few months after the 9/11 attacks and the Security and Prosperity Partnership forged between the Bush administration, Mexico and Canada in 2005 to implement common approaches to security and economic development, although the initiatives no longer appear to be active.
'Both countries are committed to evidence-based, predictable, cost-effective regulatory approaches carefully targeted to enable businesses to continue to innovate and grow,' a joint statement said. They also promised to provide early notice of regulations that could have knock-on effects across the border.
The first meeting of the RCC will be held within 90 days to include senior regulatory, trade and foreign affairs officials from both governments. The RCC will focus its work on sectors with closely integrated supply chains, significant growth potential and rapidly evolving technologies.
Obama and Harper also discussed bilateral trade and investment, including steps Canada might take to strengthen copyright protections.
(More in-depth coverage about the Department of Homeland Security's vision for shared border management with Canada and Mexico is available in the February American Shipper, 'Reinventing border security,' pages 24-30.) ' Eric Kulisch