By Stephen Kaufman
Washington IIP Staff Writer
07 December 2011
The United States and Canada share the longest international border in the world, as well as the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have announced that both countries are taking concrete steps to ease travel and trade, while also enhancing their mutual security.
“We’re going to make it easier to conduct the trade and travel that creates jobs, and we’re going to make it harder for those who would do us harm and threaten our security,” Obama told reporters at a December 7 press conference with Harper in Washington.
Every day, more than $1 billion in trade crosses the U.S.-Canadian border by land, air and sea, but Obama said “old systems and heavy congestion” have caused delays, which have inconvenienced visitors and hurt potential profits for Canadian and American businesses.
“We want to make it easier for frequent travelers and our business people to travel, and we’re going to create a simplified entry-exit system,” Obama said. In 2010, more than 100 million people crossed the border, and the president said he wants to encourage even more Canadians to visit the United States.
To improve the border infrastructure, “we’re going to introduce new technologies, we’re going to improve cargo security and screening,” he said. With better screening and information sharing, both countries will be able to concentrate their security resources where they are most needed and identify “real threats to our security before they reach our shores.”
Along with making it easier for people, trade goods and services to cross the border, the president said, the United States and Canada are stepping up their efforts to get rid of regulations that are outdated and unjustified and have stifled trade and job creation in both countries.
Obama said there would be a “better balance with sensible regulations” that are streamlined and coordinated but still protect health and safety, with a focus on the auto, agriculture and health care sectors.
“This can be a win-win situation where not only are we making our regulatory systems more efficient in our respective countries, but we’re also seeing greater convergence between our two countries,” he said.
Harper said the agreements will help create “a new modern border for a new century” and that they represent the most significant steps forward in the bilateral relationship since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Smarter systems can enhance the security of both countries and “reduce the needless inconvenience posed to manufacturers and travelers by multiple inspections of freight and baggage,” he said.
Through cooperation, security threats can be handled better while allowing trusted travelers to cross the border more quickly, he said.
Harper also said that in reforming trade regulations, U.S. and Canadian officials will reexamine all rules and standards that appear to be hindering businesses on both sides.
“Today’s agreements will yield lasting benefits to travelers, traders, manufacturers — in fact, everybody whose legitimate business or pleasure takes them across the border,” he said.