On Border Update

Excerpted from Border deal just part of agenda in ‘make or break’ year by JOHN IBBITSON

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail Monday, Dec. 17 2012

Few paid any attention on Friday to the one-year report card on the new Canada-U.S. border agreement. The terrible shootings at Newtown understandably shoved everything else aside.

That report shows the Harper government and the Obama administration still struggling to fulfill the promise of the Beyond the Border agreement on travel, trade and security.

Trade is the issue on which the Conservatives want to be judged. (They certainly prefer it to military procurement.) And 2013 is shaping up as the pivotal year in casting that judgment.

The Harper government will either open Canada more fully to the world, or we’ll simply muddle along. In this economic environment, muddling along simply won’t do.

Among other things, rules are now in place so that passengers with cross-border connections no longer have to check their baggage twice, and there is the pilot project that permits imports bound for the U.S. market to be examined in Prince Rupert, B.C., and then shipped south with no further inspections on the principle of “cleared once, accepted twice.”

But John Manley, the former foreign minister who now heads the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, observed that “the two governments are still negotiating the terms of a comprehensive preclearance system for land, rail and marine cargo even though that plan was supposed to be finalized,” by this month.

He wants both sides to put their back into accelerating and expanding a continental inspection regime.

Not fair, responded David Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

“The overwhelming majority of what we said we were going to do, we did, and for the ones that aren’t on schedule, there were good and valid reasons why they didn’t get done,” Mr. Jacobson told The Globe’s Paul Koring.

But making progress on thinning the Canada-U.S. border is only one aspect of an agenda that will make 2013 a “make or break year,” said Colin Robertson, the former diplomat who now studies and writes on trade issues.

The Harper government is also supposed to be in the very last stages of concluding a comprehensive trade agreement with the European Union. The final issues – on agriculture exports and intellectual property protections – are proving to be the most difficult. If a deal is to be done, ’twere well it were done quickly, for the Europeans and Americans are now looking to negotiate an agreement, and once those talks are started, the Europeans will focus on nothing else.

Canada is finally part of the even more ambitious Trans Pacific Partnership talks, which would create a new free-trade sphere that would link nations in North and South America, the Pacific and Asia. An accord will be reached in 2013, or not at all. And Canada and India have committed to concluding a free-trade agreement in 2013.

The Conservatives face plenty of resistance to their trade agenda. For every action to make it easier and cheaper to sends goods across the Canada-U.S. border, there’s the reaction of a Congress or an administration looking for new fees and charges to help offset the chronic budget deficit.

Powerful lobbies continue to press for agricultural, pharmaceutical and other protections, which complicate trade agreements.

Still, the Conservatives are trying. As Mr. Robertson observes, the report card can point to an increased willingness on the part of Canadian and U.S. officials to harmonize safety and other regulations, so that products manufactured in one country can be sold in both.

If the Harper government can continue to make progress on the Canada-U.S. border, conclude a trade deal with Europe, another with India, and maybe be part of a Trans Pacific agreement, that will make 2013 a good year.

Excerpted from  New border security deal has made Canadians, Americans safer and better off: U.S. ambassador by John Ivison National Post Dec 14, 2012

OTTAWA — Canadians and Americans are safer and better off as a result of the perimeter security deal signed last December by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama, says the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

David Jacobson pointed to two initiatives he said have increased efficiency at the border – reduction in wait times at airports because of the NEXUS trusted traveller program and mutual recognition of air cargo that means less missing baggage on connecting flights.

He said the choice is not between security or efficiency. “They tend to be the same thing.”

Mr. Jacobson was speaking as the two governments reported “significant progress” on their plan that aims to “thin” their border.

In the first annual report on the “Beyond the Border” and regulatory co-operation programs, they said there has been improved coordination on border management, cyber-security, the NEXUS plan and air cargo security.

“This puts real meat on the bones of what the President and the Prime Minister promised. And we aren’t done yet,” Mr. Jacobson said.

John Manley, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, was less glowing in his assessment.

“To be perfectly honest, it’s more promising than actual results. There are signs that good things are happening but it will require more work,” he said.

He said it remains a difficult challenge to get sovereign nations to think about fluidity at the border as if it were an inter-state or inter-provincial boundary.

Free trade has reduced tariff barriers, but both sides still charge fees for some services, like product inspections.

The council pointed out the goal of pre-clearing goods on the factory floor remains unfulfilled. At the launch last year, both sides touted a pilot project in Prince Rupert, B.C., where goods landed were checked and loaded at the port, then shipped by rail to Chicago, without being re-inspected at the border in Minnesota.

Mr. Jacobson said the need for legislation on both sides of the border has slowed down the rollout of that initiative.

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and close observer of the Canada-U.S. relationship, said there was nothing new in the progress report but it was a useful taking stock exercise. He said it was significant “Beyond the Borders” still bears the imprimateur of the U.S. President, which sends the message down the chain of command it is a priority.

The target when the deal was struck was to reduce border costs by $16-billion a year – or 1% of gross domestic product.

Mr. Jacobson said the focus on the border highlights a trading relationship that is going from strength to strength. Two-way trade between Canada and the U.S. rose by 38% — or $181-billion — in the last two years.

“Last year alone, Canadian exports to the U.S. increased by $41-billion,” he said.

“Canadian exports to China increased by $4-billion. I think it was Mark Twain who said ‘rumours of my demise are greatly exaggerated.’ ”

Comments Off on On Border Update

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.

Comments Off on On the Border Deal

On the Canada US border deal

On Canada AM with Beverly Thomson December 7, 2011

Comments Off on On the Canada US border deal

On the Canada-US Border Deal

Canada AM interview with Brad Giffin Wednesday, December 7

Comments Off on On the Canada-US Border Deal

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.

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

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.’”

Comments Off on Looking to the Border Deal