The United States and Canada on Friday released progress reports listing steps the two governments have taken in their one-year-old effort to make the norther border more efficient and simplify regulations.
Many of the accomplishments under the Beyond the Border
and Regulatory Cooperation Council
initiatives have been widely publicized as they occur, but the reports summarize in one place all the work undertaken so far.
Beyond the Border is a bilateral strategy to focus security on the North American perimeter and make transit across the common border easier for legitimate travelers and traders to improve economic competitiveness. It's key pillars include addressing potential threats before they reach the continent, reducing duplication to speed up trade, and modernizing customs infrastructure to process more traffic. The Regulatory Cooperation Council was created to make regulations more compatible and less burdensome so Canadian and American firms can do business more easily in each country.
President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to the joint security and economic competitiveness framework in early 2011 and the two governments issued detailed action plans in December to implement the strategy.
Achievements in coordinating border management include:
- Acceptance of each country's respective air cargo security programs. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, for example, determined that Canadian rules met its standards for 100 percent screening of cargo carried on passenger planes, giving airlines flying to the United States the option of following one set of rules instead of inspecting shipments twice.
- Developed an Integrated Cargo Security Strategy based on pre-screening shipment data to address risks in the supply chain as far head of arrival as possible. To validate the approach, a pilot project was launched in October at the Port of Prince Rupert for cargo destined to the United States by rail that enables Canadian Customs to inspect containers identified by U.S. Customs, eliminating the need for inspections when the train crosses the border. A similar pilots for truck transport are scheduled to commence early next year and Canada has begun a trial program for collecting advance shipment data for all-cargo aircraft that mirrors a U.S. program.
- Developed a common set of streamlined data elements for advance security screening of cargo for all modes of transport.
- Began a one-year sector-based pilot project that provides for advance review and clearance of official certification and alternative approaches to import inspection activities.
- Developed a detailed operational model for the upcoming deployment of a truck cargo facilitation pilot project.
- Developed a guide to manage land border traffic in the event of an emergency.
- Began a project to assess the security and resilience of critical infrastructure at the border.
Among the steps taken on the regulatory cooperation front are:
- Initiation of a pilot project for the joint inspection of non-Canadian and non-U.S.-flagged vessels entering the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway, focusing on security and pollution prevention, and working and living conditions for seafarers.
- Preliminary work on a perimeter approach to plant protection. Pilot projects are underway to coordinate approaches to regulatory oversight for Chrysanthemum white Rust and streamlining the commodity certification process for the Greenhouse Certification Program.
- Officials have set goals in the next year to better harmonize regulations dealing with motor vehicle safety, rail safety, intelligent transportation systems, marine transportation, the environment, health and personal care products and workplace chemicals.
Industry groups are strong supporters of the joint U.S.-Canadian effort to streamline border controls and applauded the progress to date.
"However, it is also very clear that there is much more to do. While there is an impressive number of projects in the works, both governments must focus on delivering results with respect to those initiatives most critical to companies conducting the bulk of cross-border business," Jason Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said in a statement.
"This includes aligning trusted trader programs, providing single window processing at the border, and fast-tracking regulatory cooperation initiatives in sectors where there is strong buy-in from businesses in both countries," he said.
“There is a lot of work here, and these things take time, but so far the implementation report shows that our federal government and industry stakeholders didn’t simply retreat back into the shadows after the action plan announcement last year,” added Canadian Trucking Alliance President David Bradley. “The action plan attempts to modernize the border by improving trade facilitation and reducing unnecessary regulatory barriers at the vital Canada-U.S. border. It’s nice to see that we have made some progress to make that into a reality.”
The U.S.-based National Foreign Trade Council called for both governments to continue to instill transparency and efficiency in trade between the two nations.
“We welcome these new initiatives, as they show a real commitment by both countries to advance bilateral partnership on all of these key issues,” the NFTC said in a statement. “Efforts to enhance cooperation on trade and investment, in particular, will benefit businesses and workers in both countries and help support economic growth and job creation.”
The U.S. and Canadian governments plan to issue annual reports on implementation of their shared border strategy each of the next two years. - Eric Kulisch