WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama announced today an agreement to implement two actions plans designed to speed up trade and travel, improve security in North America, and align regulatory approaches in both countries.
"These agreements represent the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” Harper said.
Obama said that both countries are proud of the mutually beneficial trade-relationship, and that through these actions plans they are "determined not just to sustain this trade, but expand it."
The announcement has so far had a positive reaction from Canada’s trucking industry.
“This is a great day for the trucking industry and the trade community in both countries,” said David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “The action plans effectively balance security and trade imperatives while restoring a meaningful return on investment in the trusted trader programs and creating the opportunity for a more efficient and productive border.”
The CTA has consulted extensively 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 measures the Alliance felt would improve trade facilitation and reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers.
"The greatest bang for our buck," Bradley said, "is the harmonization between Canada and the U.S. on the data requirements for in-transit goods movement which temporarily travel through one of the two countries.”
Security rules implemented post 9/11 "essentially killed Canadian carriers’ ablity to transport domestic loads through the U.S.," CTA noted. By restoring carriers’ ability to move in-transit, trade will be more efficient, cost less and speed up transit times for trucks moving goods through the States.
The U.S. government agreed to synchronize its current rules with Canada’s. “CTA has been seeking U.S. harmonization with Canadian rules for years," Bradley said, "and now the Perimeter Action Plan has delivered.”
While the CTA’s suggested modernization of the rules governing the repositioning of foreign empty trailers was not part of the action plan announced today, Bradley said that the issue is still on the table and he remains encouraged.
The other big wins for the trucking industry were:
- Mutual Recognition of Trusted Trader Programs — 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). Currently, companies must apply to both programs separately, despite the fact that the information required is identical.
- FAST Cards — Governments will examine ways to allow FAST cards to meet requirements of other security programs, involving CBSA, CBP and other government agencies.
- Pre-Inspection — A pilot slated for launch at the Port of Montreal will introduce an ‘inspect once, accept twice’ concept, where freight arriving at the North American border will only be inspected by one Customs agency but will be accepted by both countries.
- Pre-Clearance — USCBP will implement a pre-clearance pilot at a land border by Sept. 2012, quite possibly the Peace Bridge, where infrastructure limitations contribute to traffic congestion.
- Wood Packaging Material — The action plan commits to finding ways to ensure that inspection of pallets and other packaging materials is done away from the border and does not disrupt border operations.
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