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Ambassador warns of careful implementation measures

TORONTO, Ont. -- Careful implementation of cross-border initiatives is the key to continued economic prosperity bet...

TORONTO, Ont. — Careful implementation of cross-border initiatives is the key to continued economic prosperity between Canada and the US, urged Canadas Ambassador to the US.

Michael Wilson, in a speech to the Empire Club of Canada, talked about Canada/US relations and the importance of the border as an ever-evolving complex entity that interconnects our lives, our economies and our continued prosperity.

Canada has seen a gradual thickening of the border over the past four years, initiatives that jeopardize our longstanding commercial and people-to-people connections, said Wilson. Recently weve seen measures introduced in food inspection as well as the WHTI, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative or the new passport rules, both initiatives which if not implemented carefully will undermine the foundation of NAFTA, the backbone of our economic integration, as well as our 140 years of shared friendship and family connections.

Beginning on Jan. 23, all air travellers entering the US would be require to present a passport to enter the country.

Wilson expected this round of implementation to go smoothly as passport usage is around 95% between the two countries, and the US intends to demonstrate flexibility in the implementation, but he did not say exactly how.

At passport offices across Canada however, applications have been reported to be backed up by as much as 20 days.

Right now were averaging about 21,000 applications a day, which is unprecedented, a Passport Canada official told the Toronto Sun. Were definitely experiencing delays.

With land and sea implementation of the passport rule still 11 or potentially more months away, Wilson said he will be encouraging the US to take all of the necessary time required to get it right.

We cannot rush into this and have a cold-turkey implementation without appropriate flexibility and phasing in, he noted. But we are encouraged by recent indications that the Administration and Congress may be more flexible in the implementation of WHTI related to land crossings.

— with file from the Toronto Sun

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