Detroit River Crossing

Excerpted from The Windsor Star ‘New Bridge Need grows stronger’ December 31, 2011

The new Windsor-Detroit bridge may still be waiting for final legislative approval in Michigan, but one thing is certain – the case for building the downriver crossing is rock solid. The economies of Ontario and Michigan and Canada and the U.S. need the bridge to sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs and create new ones.

Over the past year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has continued to champion the project and, despite the politicking of a handful of Michigan lawmakers, has vowed to get the bridge built.

The sense is that Snyder will move to push the project forward in the new year, and he will do so with the full support of President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and virtually everyone in the Canada-U.S. business community who understands that our essential trading relationship can no longer be held hostage by a few individuals.

As we approach the start of 2012, it’s a good time to refocus on the need for an updated and efficient border to ensure future growth on both sides of the border.

First, this isn’t just a Windsor-Detroit issue. We are at the heart of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region which represents the fourth largest economy in the world – $4.6 trillion in economic output in 2009. More than $2 billion in good and services goes back and forth across the border every day, including $356 million through Windsor-Detroit.

Second, consider the numbers that have been used to support a new publicly owned downriver bridge:

. Bilateral trade supports more than eight million U.S. jobs, including 220,000 in Michigan. One of three Canadian jobs rely on U.S.-Canada trade.

. Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner, purchasing 58 per cent of all Michigan’s foreign-bound goods. In 2008, trade between Canada and Michigan reached $67.4 billion.

. Annual trade between Canada and the U.S. is more than $500 billion a year and one-quarter of that trade relies on the Windsor-Detroit crossing.

. Commercial truck traffic is expected to increase more than 100 per cent by 2035.

All of those figures add up to the need for a modern, publicly owned bridge on the Detroit River. And the case for the new bridge was eloquently argued last summer by former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard and Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and senior strategic adviser with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP

“The 105 million people living in the (Great Lakes-St. Lawrence) region today need their respective governments to continue to work together on the border. To remain the world’s fourth largest economy, the region needs a second Detroit-Windsor crossing.

“Our most integrated trade industry by far, the production and assembly of automobiles is concentrated in the Great Lakes region. This ‘industry of industries’ draws in hundreds of feeder manufacturers in dozens of locations in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

“But the top priority has to be the construction of a second bridge between Windsor and Detroit. In the 7,000 trucks that daily cross the Ambassador Bridge are contained over a quarter of the goods traded between Canada and the U.S. Any interruption in traffic on this 80-year-old, privately owned bridge means layoffs: thousands in the first day and tens of thousands stretching south to the Carolinas by day two. Resiliency, national security and the national interest of both countries requires us to build a second crossing, the new International Trade Crossing.”

As we usher in the new year, it’s time to get the shovels in the ground.
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Beyond the Border Deal

Weekend Anchor Brian Dunstan of SUN TV interviews Colin Robertson on cross-border shipments and the differences between NAFTA and the new Border Accord

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Border Deal

Neil Macdonald interviews Colin Robertson on the border accord for CBC’s The National

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On the Border Deal

CPAC’s Peter Van Dusen discusses the Security Perimeter Agreement with former U.S. diplomat Theresa Brown and former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

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On the Canada US border deal

On Canada AM with Beverly Thomson December 7, 2011

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On the Canada-US Border Deal

Canada AM interview with Brad Giffin Wednesday, December 7

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Canada stakes hopes on new border deal with U.S.

excerpted from Toronto Star, November 6 Canada stakes hopes on new border deal with US by Bruce Campion-Smith

An ambitious overhaul of Canada-U.S. relations that boosts border security and speeds trade?

Or a one-day White House wonder that is quickly overshadowed by the distractions of a U.S. election year and a president fighting to win a second term?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with President Barack Obama for a cursory 30 minutes on Wednesday to sign a border pact billed as the biggest change in trans-border relations since the two countries inked their free trade deal in 1988.

The “Beyond the Border” initiative is expected to boost information-sharing between law enforcement agencies, commit new spending on border infrastructure, reduce red tape for shippers, all in a bid to speed trade and travellers across a border that has become increasingly bogged down by security measures.

But for all the hype, experts say it will be years before its success can be truly measured.

Indeed, for it to succeed at all will require the ongoing support of the president and his administration. That might prove a tall order for Obama, who is already in campaign mode for a tough election less than a year away.

“It has the potential to be transformative,” said former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who cautioned that campaign fever was already bogging things down.

“Most of this can be done administratively but even administratively we’re into that period where . . . things go slowly,” said Robertson, a former free trade negotiator who is now a senior strategic adviser at McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

Fen Hampson, director of Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said such meetings are important but so, too, are tempered expectations.

“Every time we’ve gone for a smart border, it’s died a bureaucratic death,” Hampson said. “The Americans don’t see a problem and that’s our problem.”

Canada is barely on the radar screen in this town, even less so in an election year. Indeed, in a White House briefing Sunday with reporters on Obama’s week ahead, neither Harper’s visit nor the border pact was even raised….

Robertson is confident that in his efforts to spur the economy, Obama — who has promised to double U.S. exports by 2015 — can’t ignore the upsides of increased trade across an unclogged border.

“He wants jobs. There is a very rational . . . case that this will help improve the situation on both sides but particularly for the Americans,” Robertson said Tuesday.

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Beyond the Border: Noise and Promise

Beyond the Border: noise and promise from Globe and Mail Dec. 05, 2011

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama will announce a framework agreement on their Beyond the Border initiative with “risk management” as its guiding principle.

The deal is likely to include the following: Pre-clearance, currently offered at our major airports, will be extended to cargo leaving the factory gate; thresholds for inspected goods will be more generous; the “fast pass” privileges for trusted travelers will be expanded; access roads and ports will be improved to make them gateways rather than chokepoints; electrical grids, oil and gas pipelines, and the circuitry for everything from ATM transactions to air traffic control will be reinforced against cyber threats.

There will be reforms aimed at greater regulatory compatibility because differing national “standards” are the new barrier to commerce. They range from baby food bottles to seat belts to the Cheerios that U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson eats for breakfast.

Inevitably, there will be complaints about a loss of “sovereignty.” But the reality is that we are leagues away from a European-style common market or common currency. We maintain separate immigration regimes while sharing data on cross-border flow in people. Privacy is a legitimate concern, but there’s probably more self-inflicted embarrassment on Facebook sites than can be gleaned from government.

The new deal would be a substantive advance on the Smart Border accord, quickly and cleverly cobbled together in the wake of 9/11. The test will be in the pilots and practical implementation to improve supply-chain security and efficiency by moving inspection to the perimeter. An attitudinal change on the part of border staff will be essential to expedite the flow of people and goods. Early results must include faster passage through the border and, for business, less red tape. If implemented as envisioned, the deal holds out the promise of transformational progress.

But there’ll bumps on the road.

The stalled second crossing at Detroit-Windsor and the debate around the Keystone XL pipeline are a reminder of how special interests in the U.S. system can thwart the common good. Uncle Sam is broke and the American allergy to taxation means they’ll continue to look elsewhere for revenue, thus the new fee on air and sea travellers. The IRS “granny hunt” for tax scofflaws, a port tariff, and the Buy America provisions within Mr. Obama’s jobs bill corrode our confidence in Uncle Sam’s ability to negotiate in good faith.

Much of this is noise. Unlike our Westminster system, most American legislative proposals wither on the congressional vine. We need to better understand the U.S. system, so we aren’t constantly sounding the alarm bell without cause.

Past deals, including the Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement and the North American free-trade agreement, mostly shield us from U.S. protectionism, but they must be constantly reinforced. The fractious nature of the American system means a permanent campaign on behalf of Canadian interests. Those who worry about putting our eggs in one basket should recall that we have 50-plus trade negotiations under way globally. A deal with the European Union is imminent, and the invitation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is promising. But the U.S. remains the world’s biggest market.

A majority government and support from the premiers, a sea change since the 1988 free-trade election, ensure that we can meet our obligations.

The American picture is more clouded. Some will object to “giving” Canada a special deal, forgetting that the supply-chain dynamic creates jobs. Others will be reluctant to lower the drawbridge at the border, but U.S. border czar Alan Bersin got it right, saying the “old dichotomy between the promotion of trade and heightening of security … is a false choice.”

Bureaucratic resistance to change will be reinforced by the inertia that descends on Washington during a presidential election year. The Canada-U.S. Partnership inaugurated by Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien in 1999 evaporated into the bureaucratic ether. The trilateral Security and Prosperity Partnership launched by George W. Bush, Paul Martin and Vicente Fox in 2005 turned into a zombie.

It took Ronald Reagan’s personal intervention to conclude the FTA in 1988. Will Mr. Obama demonstrate that same commitment in implementing the new deal?

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Looking to the Border Deal

From Global News/The West Block : Sunday, December 04, 2011 Border pact won’t compromise sovereignty: former diplomat
OTTAWA – Just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to Washington, D.C., ostensibly to sign a perimeter agreement with President Barack Obama, Canadians still have many questions.

The precise details of the agreement, which aims to ease trade and increase security in both countries, are still unknown.

With questions of potential privacy infringements and loss of sovereignty, the deal could be a tough sell in Canada.

One of the keys to a successful agreement will be balancing sovereignty and privacy with the need to increase efficiency at the border, said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who helped negotiate the FTA and NAFTA.

Canada should be confident, knowing it can hold its own in terms of trade with the U.S., he said, pointing to Canada’s ability to prosper and grow through the NAFTA deal – which some also feared would hurt Canadian sovereignty.

“Trade is what makes us Canadian,” he said. “It pays for our schools, pays for out health care, it’s our ability to trade not just with the United States, but with the rest of the world as well.”

The bi-lateral agreement is supposed to help trade flow easily between Canada and the United States – the countries that boast the largest trading partnership in the history of the world. But critics warn Canadians could be giving up their sovereignty and personal privacy for this economic gain.

The deal will likely include the following:

– Offering pre-clearance for trucks carrying commercial goods as they leave the factory gate.
– Expanding “fast pass” border-crossing privileges, such as the NEXUS pass.
– Using biometrics to track travelers in real time.
– Eliminating redundant inspections by means of harmonizing standards and equipment.
– Making regulations on a variety of goods more compatible.

Many in Canada, including the federal privacy czar, have raised red flags around the suggestion that Canadians will have to divulge personal information when crossing the border.

Gordon Giffin, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, acknowledged that several aspects took precedence over security when the details were being hammered out.

“I don’t mean to suggest that security is not very important here,” he said during an appearance on The West Block. “But the economy and jobs, and how we more efficiently manage our pocket book here has become almost equal to security.”

Americans remain concerned about security and privacy, said Giffin, who helped negotiate a pre-clearance agreement with Canada in 2001.

“It’s not as if we’re giving up everything in the United States to the government,” he said. “So I think that there’s probably more rhetoric on that subject than is necessary.”

Another key to ensuring the success of the agreement, Robertson said, will be getting players at all levels to work toward a common goal, and changing the attitudes of border staff.

Economically, the ties between the Canada and the U.S. are longer than the border that divides them.

In Michigan alone, bilateral trade with Canada in 2010 was worth $62.1 billion; trade with New York State accounted for $35.1 billion.

In total, trade between the two countries was worth $646 billion last year – that’s $1.7 billion a day, or more than $1 million every single minute.

Still, Canadian businesses have been losing billions of dollars every year since the borders were tightened following 9/11, causing long delays in getting goods across the border.

The border discussions between Harper and Obama represent the third effort since the terrorist attacks to reduce congestion at the border.

And although Harper and Obama officially launched the talks in February, Robertson suggests they date back to February 2009, when Obama made Ottawa his first foreign visit after becoming president.

“Obama recognized he’d have to double his exports if he’s going to bring America back to prosperity,” he said. “And his ambassador, David Jacobson, said ‘look, if you’re going to double your exports, you should start with what is your biggest export. And that is Canada.’”

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