Perimeter Security, Immigration and Beyond the Borders

CPAC’s Prime Time host Peter van Dusen interviews Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, a vice-president with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, and Edward Alden, a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, discuss the Canada-U.S. perimeter security negotiations, immigration and refugee policy, the challenges to a deal, and the possibility of an imminent announcement.

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excerpted from Canada should come back to earth about cross-border shopping

From Neil Reynolds Globe and Mail  Canada should come back to earth about cross-border shopping May 18, 2011

U.S. trade policy analyst Daniel Ikenson got it right a couple of years ago when he proposed a long-overdue revision of product origin labels. They should all read, he said, “Made on Earth,” to reflect the fact that almost nothing is manufactured in a single country any more. What good is it to calculate the dollar value of China’s exports, he said, when other countries account for more than half of it? Global economic integration, he said, has made national trade policy and national trade statistics obsolete…

Take one relatively minor – that is, relatively easy – border issue: the amount of goods that Canadians may bring back duty-free from cross-border shopping trips to the United States. Here is a simple way to show Canadians that integrated borders mean a more tangible economic relationship with the States. Yet, as The Globe and Mail reported last week, the federal government has told the U.S. that it will not increase these nuisance exemptions.

Earlier this year, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson proposed that the government increase these exemptions tenfold: raising the one-day allowance from $50 to $500 per person; the three-day allowance from $250 to $2,500; that longer-stay allowance from $750 to $7,500. For most Canadians, these higher allowances would eliminate the us-versus-them hassles of cross-border shopping – and permit customs agents to spend less time on “looking for bottles of duty-free whisky,” as a Senate report exhorted in a 2007 report, “and spend more time trying to identify people who might be a genuine threat.”

With largely integrated economies, the historic reasons for these anachronistic regulations between Canada and the U.S. no longer exist. Compared with the trade that crosses the border every day, the tax revenue extracted from shoppers is insignificant. Cross-border customs agents monitor a minor part of Canada-U.S. trade. It should be enough to know that these “Made on Earth” goods have been happily “Bought on Earth” as well…

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Foreign Policy under the re-elected Conservative Government

Prime time Politics with Martin Stringer May 9, 2010: Outgoing foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon gave his farewell address this morning to diplomats and bureaucrats in Ottawa. Cannon, who was defeated in last week’s election, is leaving the post after two and a half years.And what happens now for Canadian foreign policy and international trade now that the Conservatives have a four-year majority, with the NDP as official Opposition? Martin Stringer speaks with Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, and Michael Hart, a trade expert at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

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Taking our continental partnership to the next level

Taking our continental partnership to the next level Globe and Mail Wednesday, February 2, 2011 by COLIN ROBERTSON

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama will officially launch negotiations to take our continental partnership to the next level. The two will lay out a plan designed to make the 49th parallel “a boundary, not a barrier” and deepen the perimeter, stretching from the Rio Grande to the North Pole and from the Atlantic to the Pacific, that already applies to our shared air defence.

There will be agreement to further institutionalize joint operations on intelligence, law enforcement and migration, and the sharing and pooling of information, as we’ve done for half a century through NORAD. The ultimate goal should be to make the flow of people, goods and services between the world’s single biggest bilateral trading relationship as easy as that enjoyed within the European Union. With an eye to elections, negotiations will start with the intent of getting it done within the calendar year.

The launch will cap a process begun in Toronto at the G8/20 meetings, when the Prime Minister told the President that the management “process,” endorsed at the leaders’ Ottawa summit two years ago, was going nowhere. Mr. Obama may “love” Canada, but he’s preoccupied by Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, the Koreas and, of course, the continuing economic debacle that has put the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives. Getting this far meant perseverance in overcoming rear-guard resistance from the Department of Homeland Security.

We need to take this next step because the gains of the free-trade deals were realized a decade ago. The border, meanwhile, is thickening, and Canadians need better access if we’re to sustain our prosperity. Mr. Obama’s declaration that he’ll double U.S. exports gives us our opening because the dynamics of supply chain integration means we have to be part of this equation. His re-election hinges on his ability to create jobs and improve competitiveness. Our shared objectives will be to take a “perimeter” approach to mutual security, to “smarten up” the border, to take a blowtorch to the regulatory thicket and to strategically manage our shared environment and its resources.

Getting it done will be difficult. The once-welcoming screen door has been replaced with storm windows and increasing layers of weather-stripping. After 9/11, authority passed from Treasury officials, for whom more traffic meant more revenue, to Homeland Security, for whom compliance is everything. We need to reintroduce risk management into the equation.

Mr. Obama must convince Congress that Canadians can be trusted and that including us in the security blanket serves U.S. national security and economic interests. Differentiating between the northern and southern borders while avoiding a reopening of the immigration debate will take skill and finesse. There should be eventual provision for Mexico.

The Canadian debate will be noisy. The kabuki-like foreplay, with endorsements by business, former Canadian and U.S. ambassadors and former prime minister Brian Mulroney, plays to populist arguments about a secret corporatist agenda. Concerns over privacy, standards and sovereignty need to be assuaged and the case made for how the initiative serves the national interest.

Mr. Harper needs to confide in Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and the premiers. Last year’s agreement on procurement reciprocity demonstrated the value of our premiers reaching out to their gubernatorial counterparts. Canadian business and labour have to remind their head offices, customers and affiliates that continental supply-chain dynamics work to their advantage.

Taking the Canada-U.S. partnership to the next level makes sense. Sticking with the status quo means continuing incremental decline. Meantime, the global express is picking up speed.

Colin Robertson is vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior strategic adviser with McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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U.S. midterms and Canada: We must defend our interests

Excerpts from the Globe and Mail, November 4, 2011 by Allan Gotlieb and Colin Robertson

The U.S. Congress has undergone another sea change as a result of Tuesday’s midterm elections and the Republican wave with a Tea Party crest. What has not changed is the requirement for vigilance in defence of Canadian interests. Those interests are our economic prosperity, our need for a wider and enhanced international trading system, and an open border between our two countries.

From the standpoint of our interests, Congress is the organ of government of greatest concern to Canada. In the U.S. system of checks and balances, the three branches of government are said to be co-equal, but they’re not, by constitutional design of the Founding Fathers. Congress, not the presidency, is primus inter pares

If the mood of Americans continues to turn inward because of fatigue with foreign wars and “unreliable” allies, we can anticipate more security measures and thus a further thickening of our border. The passport requirement for Canada and U.S. travellers was a profoundly retrograde step, curbing tourism and the flow of service clubs and youth sports that created unique bonds of friendship. The Republican “Pledge to America” promises to further “secure our borders with strong enforcement of the law.”

Mythologies about 9/11 and Canada’s leaky borders persist. Sharron Angle, the Tea Party candidate who almost defeated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is only the latest to voice the canard that “our northern border is where the terrorists came through.” Meantime, that border continues to choke with its aging infrastructure, new rules and regulations, fees, inspections and redundancies. Our common frontier is probably the least open among any two industrialized countries anywhere, and no way to manage the world’s biggest bilateral trading relationship. A more open border between our countries needs to be a top priority.

While recognizing the advantage of divided political power in Washington, Canada should greatly intensify our efforts to find new global markets for our resources, especially energy. It should be a matter of the highest national priority to develop the policies and to create the necessary infrastructure.

Regrettably, President Barack Obama seems to lack any strategic view of Canada’s value from the standpoint of U.S. national interests. While it may be tempting, Canadian interests are too important for us to drop anchor and stay in safe harbour. Ad hocery and incrementalism will not stem decline. Open trade and borders are the proven path to jobs and mutually reinforcing growth and prosperity.

The most effective way to reverse the trend line is through bold, energetic Canadian initiatives. We should start by reminding Americans that, if they’re to trade their way out of recession, the first step is to build on our deep, integrated supply chain dynamic with their biggest market and to renew the partnership with Canada.

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