FAST launched as Chretien and Bush meet in Michigan

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WINDSOR, Ont. — Prime Minister Jean Chretien and U.S. President George W. Bush signed a declaration yesterday to launch the Free and Secured Trade Program (FAST).

The agreement is aimed at improving the movement of goods across the Can-Am border by reducing the time it will take to process trucks carrying low-risk shipments.

While the FAST program is a step in the right direction, Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) chief executive officer, David Bradley says yesterday’s announcement isn’t enough.

He says there are still a number of issues that must be addressed, such as the mechanics and associated costs of truck driver registration, the differences associated with less-than-truckload versus full load shipments, and providing dedicated lanes for trucks using the FAST system of clearance. Bradley would also like to see a freeway built on the Canadian approach to the Windsor-Detroit crossing.

"You can take a truck from Toronto to Miami and you’ll go through 15 stop lights, but 14 of them are in Windsor," says Bradley. "It’s an untenable situation for truckers and for local residents."

However, Bradley is encouraged by the implementation of the FAST program, despite its flaws.

"For us, FAST is the key part of the 30-point Smart Border Accord signed late last year," says Bradley. "Up until then, the Canadian and U.S. services had operated more or less in isolation of each other, with different processes and different emphases."

Meanwhile, the CTA wasn’t the only group feeling that something was lacking from the P.M.’s visit to the Windsor-Detroit border. Windsor Mayor, Mike Hurst, was disappointed Chretien didn’t make any announcements regarding the $600-million border infrastructure fund.

"I was hoping there was going to be a big announcement today by the Prime Minister, but that’s not going to happen," says Hurst. "There is some positive stuff being announced today, but it will do nothing to address some of the difficult situations that we in Windsor – and Detroit – are confronting.”

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