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OTTAWA, Ont. — Unless Canada develops a coherent strategy and invests in relevant infrastructure, trade with the U.S. will eventually be strangled, says the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).

“Perhaps no other country is as dependent upon trade than Canada, yet while our federal government is good at promoting trade, it leaves others to assume the consequences,” David Bradley, chief executive officer of the alliance, told a conference on trade issues organized by the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum.

“Canada remains the only industrialized country in the world not to have a national highway policy, for example.”

Over one-third of Canada’s GDP is dependent upon trade with the United States and every $1 billion in trade creates 11,000 jobs in Canada, he pointed out.

Bradley also said it is extremely important that Canada take a more proactive approach to making the case in the US for improved customs systems. About 70 per cent of cross-border trade moves by truck, he explained.

A truck crosses the Canada-U.S. border every 2.5 seconds, so that border crossing delays, in increased transportation costs and increased emissions, total about $8 million per minute.

“The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has done a good job of facilitating northbound trade. This has made it easier for US imports to enter Canada, but the lack of reciprocal action and investment in automated systems on the US side continues to make it difficult for Canadian exports to reach markets in the US. Trade with Canada is not nearly as important politically in the US as it is here,” Bradley said.

Among the actions proposed by CTA to address pressing trade issues were:

Designate one government minister to have the lead on border issues as opposed to the current fragmented multi-departmental approach;

Allocate federal fuel taxes to a strategic infrastructure fund, that would be used to pay for highway and border projects and to leverage provincial, municipal and private partnerships;

Create a joint Canada-US, government-industry advisory board on border issues;

Review the Canada-US Tax Treaty and NAFTA to ensure sub-national governments (e.g., the US states) are consistent with international tax norms;

Re-start the NAFTA standards harmonization process that has been stalled since the US unilaterally defied NAFTA by failing to open the southern border with Mexico (which was to have been completed by 2000).

In addition, Bradley said that while the idea of a perimeter clearance or “Fortress North America” model was attractive, he thought that current political realities in both countries made it a long shot at best.

He was concerned that discussion of this controversial proposal might divert attention from some of the incremental changes that are needed now.

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