Pre-inspection of overseas shipping containers and trucks prior to crossing the Canadian border into the United States is one of the key accomplishments achieved under the Beyond the Border Initiative last year, according to a progress report issued by both countries in December.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2011 directed bureaucracies in both countries to make trade and travel easier and less expensive, partner on security and collaborate on economic development to make North America more competitive.
Under the principle of “cleared once, accepted twice,” the two nations have developed a border strategy designed to secure the continent’s perimeter from dangerous goods and people, while making their shared border more permeable for citizens and businesses.
Last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with the aid of the Canada Border Services Agency, conducted a five-month trial at the Surrey, British Columbia, crossing across the Pacific highway from Blaine, Wash., to test standard operating procedures and technologies for employing cargo pre-inspection at busy land ports of entry. About 3,500 trucks were pre-checked by CBP on Canadian soil. The program was not continued in Blaine because volumes there do not justify it.
CBP was scheduled in January to apply the lessons learned and launch a one-year pre-inspection pilot for trucks at the Peace Bridge, between Buffalo, N.Y., and Fort Erie, Ontario.
Officers will be stationed at the Canadian checkpoint to do primary inspections, and trucks will either get a green light when they reach the U.S. side of the bridge or be directed to a cargo lot for secondary inspection. CBP has said it will provide front-of-the-line privileges to motor carriers in the Free and Secure Trade program.
The first implementation of the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy began in 2012 and continued last year with a pilot to pre-clear international containers arriving at the Port of Prince Rupert, which then move to the United States by rail. Under the limited program, CBP assesses advance cargo information and requests that its Canadian counterparts conduct X-ray inspections of suspicious boxes. The images and communications are shared in a virtual environment, eliminating the need for CBP to decouple suspicious containers for inspections when the train arrives at the border. Dedicated trains with pre-cleared cargo are being processed at the border four-times faster than normal traffic.
The two customs agencies initiated in 2013 at the Port of Montreal a similar program for international cargo that is trucked south to the United States.
A pre-inspection pilot involving truck shipments arriving at Port Newark, N.J., and moving north by truck is scheduled to begin this year.
In 2013, CBP increased the threshold value for informal entries to $2,500 from $2,000 to match Canada’s requirement. Informal entries reduce documentation, insurance and fee requirements, which is a boon for individual or small business filers.
Other steps that will have a positive impact on trade include the release of the first joint Border Infrastructure Investment Plan for checkpoint improvements, with Canada confirming immediate investment plans at key border crossings.
The U.S. and Canadian governments also saw membership in the NEXUS trusted traveler program grow by about 50 percent. Program participants who are pre-vetted for a fee save time and receive an expanded set of benefits when traveling. At the land border, Canada opened additional NEXUS lanes to complement the existing U.S. investments and to expedite the border clearance process. At airports and cruise ship terminals, access to expedited passenger screening lines at designated locations in both countries and access to NEXUS and Global Entry trusted traveler kiosks facilitates the border clearance process and allows border agencies to redirect resources to unknown travelers.
Several initiatives have fallen behind their original target dates due to legal or operational issues, the implementation report said. These include the harmonization of trusted trader programs, the deployment of single windows in each country through which importers can submit all government-required information, the full implementation of the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy, and the completion of a preclearance agreement for the land, rail and marine modes as well as an update to the existing preclearance agreement for the air mode.
(The full report can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/btb-canada-us-final_-_dec19.pdf