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Push Ottawa to adopt perimeter border security policy or perish, Crispo warns exporters

TORONTO, Ont. -- If your business is dependent on transborder trade you had better put all your efforts behind conv...

TORONTO, Ont. — If your business is dependent on transborder trade you had better put all your efforts behind convincing Ottawa to adopt a perimeter border strategy.

That’s the warning well-known political economy pundit John Crispo delivered to transportation industry professionals attending the Global Logistics: Perspectives from the Field seminar put on by C.I.T.T, CITA and CTEF in Toronto this week.

"Find the people who are struggling to work out the border issues and get behind them to try and get the border problem solved. If we don’t we’re dead," the well-known author and Professor Emeritus of Political Economy in the Faculty of Management at the University of Toronto said.

"You’ve got to go public, beat on all the doors. Even if you disagree with the U.S. (position) are you willing to lose jobs and our standard of living over it?" he added.

The U.S. market absorbs 87% of Canada’s exports and Export Development Corp. has predicted that the U.S. has the ability to absorb as much as 93% of our exports.

But Crispo said the relationship between the U.S. and Canada is "going downhill fast", inflamed of late by American concerns of Canadian border security and Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s unenthusiastic response to U.S. plans for a war with Iraq.

"They don’t think they can trust us. They think we are a very porous country," he said. "We better agree on common immigration policies and, at some point, a real security cardBoth sides are risking a lot but we’ve got the most to lose. Canadian industry is on the line."

Calls were strong for a perimeter border strategy and a security card that would be good for both countries in the weeks after 9-11 but they have dissipated since then over concerns of losing sovereignty and confidentiality.

"I don’t care about confidentiality," Crispo argued. "For people that want to go ahead with the new (security card) technology why don’t we give it to them? Let the people who want to hide, keep a wallet full of cards."

Crispo, in typical fashion, also took a shot at his favorite political whipping boy Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He said Chretien’s response since 9-11 and his current lack of enthusiastic support for U.S. plans for a war with Iraq are also causing a rift with our greatest trading partner.

"His reaction to 9-11 was pathetic. Chretien has done nothing but embarrass us. And now with Iraq, when the U.S. needs help, when it’s their hour of greatest need, we are sniping at them," Crispo charged. "Thank God (Finance Minister John) Manley is close to (U.S. Homeland Security head Tom) Ridge." He added that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has also been involved in calming U.S. concerns with Canadian security policy.

Crispo also said he is concerned about the future of the World Trade Organization. The international body appears stuck in its latest round of talks aimed at bringing down trade barriers and Bush criticized U.S. President George W. Bush’s protectionist policies for leading to that demise.

"Thank God for NAFTA. If the WTO goes nowhere at least we have NAFTA," he said.

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