With more than $1.5 billion worth of goods and services crossing the U.S./Canadian border every day, and with each country serving as the other’s largest trading partner, you can bet that any border-related government announcement will generate a lot of attention.
Such was the case when the new “Beyond the Border” perimeter and security agreement was announced. As presented, the agreement will help facilitate travel and trade between the two nations, align regulatory requirements, and improve border security.
While the agreement drew barely a mention by the U.S. media, Canadian business leaders and editorial writers expressed a range of opinions. “This is a very scary document,” Michael Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association told The Huffington Post. “We’re appalled. It is essentially a wholesale adoption of U.S. policy and standards across the board.” Others had a different take, including Canadian Chamber of Commerce Director Perrin Beatty, who called the agreement “Good news for all Canadians,” and the Toronto Star editorial page, which seemed to think the deal would have little immediate impact, calling it a “cautious work in progress that will be figured out, fought over and rolled out in pilot projects for years to come.”
With such a wide range of reactions, what exactly does the agreement claim to do? Canadian Transportation & Logistics outlined the key implications for businesses and transportation providers:
- 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. While both the U.S. and Canadian government have forecast significant benefits from the agreements – including $16 billion that will be saved by eliminating regulatory redundancies — time will tell if the agreement is a help or a hindrance to the nations’ shared concerns – keeping the border secure and promoting the critical U.S./Canada trade relationship.