Canada and the US announced the new “Beyond the Border” perimeter security and trade agreement today. The plan aims to streamline both travel and cross-border business between the two countries, with pilot projects to start as soon as April 2012, reported CBC News.
The announcement follows the Beyond the Border talks of last February and months of consultations and discussions on trade and security.
Both countries, which have already been working together closely on security, retain the power to allow people and products into and out of the country.
In a press conference with US President Barack Obama in Washington today, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper negotiated the sharing of information about who enters and exits the country, and said that Canada will also adopt two US screening measures over the next four years: an electronic travel authorization for visitors who don’t need visas to travel to Canada, and a system to deny boarding to inadmissible passengers before they get on a plane.
The border security deal will also reduce duplication, said President Obama. Lack of harmonization in inspections and un-aligned regulations are estimated to cost as much as $16 billion a year, officials said.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance called the deal “a historic achievement that brings the Canada-US border into the 21st century.”
“This is a great day for the trucking industry and the trade community in both countries,” said David Bradley, president of the 4,500-member company trucking alliance.
Trucks are the major mode of transborder freight transport between the world’s largest bilateral trading partners, said the CTA. As such, the CTA was involved in consultations with both agencies responsible for drafting the Action Plan — the Beyond the Border Working Group and the Canada-US Regulatory Cooperation Council – proposing a number of doable measures the Alliance felt would improve trade facilitation and reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers, said the CTA in a release.
The Alliance said it also welcomed the Perimeter Action Plan’s mutual recognition of the two main “trusted trader” risk assessment programs — the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and the Canada Border Services Agency’s’ Partners In Protection (PIP), because it had been “urging greater flexibility in how each program determined carrier and shipper access to FAST lanes into Canada.” Currently, companies must apply to both programs separately, despite the fact that the information required is identical.
Highlights of the “Beyond the Border” deal affecting commercial transportation include the following:
- Faster border crossings with commercial traffic getting more dedicated lanes and technology
- Wait times measured and posted ahead of border crossings.
- The agreement expands on programs to speed up border crossings for frequent and trusted traders, clearing cargo at the first port of entry.
- Companies will have a “single window” to submit data required by government for shipments. The cargo clearance pilot project will start in Montreal and Prince Rupert, B.C., by 2013.
- Consumer health products that have already been approved in the U.S. could be approved faster in Canada, with regulatory bodies sharing information and adjusting labeling standards to make it easier to market a product in both countries.
- Under the agreement, border and law enforcement efforts will be more integrated, starting with a radio system that will work on both sides of the border, all the way up to integrated criminal and intelligence investigations. The two countries will also conduct joint investigations to target security threats.
The two countries have also agreed to set up emergency management plans, as well as guidelines on who and what gets to cross the border first following major emergencies like terrorist attacks or natural disasters. They will also look at programs to strengthen cross-border critical infrastructure, said cbc.ca.
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