Canada: Canada And The U.S. Take First Steps Towards Negotiating A Perimeter Agreement

Copyright 2011, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Originally published in Blakes Bulletin on International Trade & Investment, February 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama announced the signing of the Beyond the Border Declaration on Friday, February 4, 2011. The declaration announces the intent of the parties to open the border between Canada and the U.S. to legitimate trade and movement of people. From increasing opportunities to participate in trusted trader programs to decreasing the regulatory discrepancies between the two countries, significant changes could be coming for businesses involved in cross-border trade.

The declaration announces the intention to adopt a "perimeter" approach to security, which the governments hope will increase economic competitiveness, job creation and prosperity, while at the same time ensuring common security. In order to implement and carry out the aims of the declaration, a "Beyond the Border Working Group" will be established, composed of representatives from both governments. The working group will look to produce and then oversee a joint Plan of Action in order to realize the goals of the declaration.

Four key areas of co-operation are identified by the governments. The parties to the declaration plan to work together on:

  • Facilitating trade, stimulating economic growth and job creation;
  • The early identification of threats;
  • Integrating cross-border law enforcement; and
  • Developing critical infrastructure and cybersecurity.

The governments will try to use compatible riskmanagement approaches and, where possible, joint measures to support the goals of the project. Further, the parties recognize that the success of their efforts will require greater sharing of information.

FACILITATING TRADE

The governments have announced several specific ways in which they may improve the flow of people and goods across the border. The governments have listed the following programs as possible areas for development:

  • Creating bi-national committees tasked with developing shared border management and infrastructure;
  • Expanding trusted traveller and trader programs;
  • Implementing common practices and streamlined procedures for customs processing;
  • Automating processes at land borders; and
  • Developing integrated cargo security strategy in order to facilitate subsequent border crossings of cargo from foreign destinations that has already entered into either Canada or the United Sates.

CROSS-BORDER SECURITY AND ENFORCEMENT

In the context of border security and threats to national security, the governments aim to improve both intelligence gathering and information sharing to better assess threats. The areas of focus include:

  • Identification and management of health security threats;
  • Emergency management;
  • Traveller identification;
  • An integrated entry-exit system; and
  • The development of joint privacy protection principles.

National security and transnational crime investigations may also be pursued in an integrated manner and the governments will look to strengthen cyber-security.

In addition to the Beyond the Border Declaration, the leaders discussed two further initiatives complementing the declaration: regulatory co-operation and green energy initiatives.

REGULATORY CO-OPERATION

In addition to the declaration, the leaders announced the formation of the United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). The RCC will be made up of senior regulatory, trade and foreign affairs officials from both governments. The aim of the council is to eliminate unnecessary burdens on cross-border trade, reduce costs, foster cross-border investment and promote certainty for businesses and the public. This will be achieved by simplifying and co-ordinating regulations where feasible. Sectors that have been identified for initial discussion include passenger vehicle regulations, light-duty vehicles, organic products and nanotechnology. This could have a significant impact on many manufacturers that participate in cross-border trade, eliminating some of the regulatory inconsistencies between the two countries.

GREEN ENERGY INITIATIVES

Finally, the leaders discussed their continued commitment to development in the green energy sector. The Second Report to Leaders on the U.SCanada Clean Energy Dialogue was presented. The dialogue, announced in February 2009, seeks to increase co-operation between the two countries on the development of clean energy technologies, reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change. The report referenced the three working groups developed under the dialogue: advancing clean energy research and development; promoting the development of clean energy technology, particularly carbon capture; and building a more efficient electricity grid.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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