Act now to fend off Customs chaos: Reports

OTTAWA – – It’s like that old joke: You can’t fix the roof until it stops raining but when it’s not raining, the roof don’t leak.

The Canadian and American Chambers of Commerce warned their respective governments this week that the only thing keeping our borders from disintegrating into utter chaos is the recession.

So now — as opposed to when the economy picks up, as many economists are predicting for the next 12 months — is the time to improve the cross-border situation.

According to media reports, the chambers issued a report called "Finding The Balance: Shared Border of the Future."

In order to avoid economic paralysis and thousands of cross-border related jobs from being affected, the report recommends a few dozen short-term solutions, especially the expansion of programs like FAST and NEXUS, which expedite cross-border transportation and shipping.

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Perrin Beatty is the president of the Canadian Chamber. He says that "we have got some false sense of security here. The problem doesn’t seem as serious as it may in fact be.

"When we see the economy starting to grow again…we’ll be seeing pressures at key border crossings growing as well."

Among the recommendations: Expanding the best-known program for business travelers — NEXUS — from its current enrolment of about 300,000 to a million.

Of particular interest to truckers, the chambers also appealed to the governments to hasten the development of pre-clearance facilities for commercial shippers, allowing them to undergo customs inspections at "off-site venues" away from the physical border.

Though the chambers applauded Ottawa and Washington for making some progress in the past year, officials said they also worried about political inertia and growing protectionist sentiment as the Obama administration continues to take shape.


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