Beyond the Canada/U.S. Border

Sep 15, 2012

The Canadian/U.S. relationship in the 21st century demands the facilitation and growth of trade, tourism, and job creation for continued economic strength while protecting the citizens of both countries. Canada and the U.S. must act to make both of our countries safe, secure, and economically viable in a global economy. A trade ­efficient Canada/U.S. border, under whatever levels of necessary security, must become a reality.

True, the U.S. and Canada are distinctly separate ­sovereign nations, however, their security and economic interests coincide and are therefore realistically interconnected. In today’s global economy, our two countries are experiencing a deepening reality of economic integration.

Confidence and trust in each other are key elements in the U.S./Canada relationship. Common sense and economic reality dictate “we are in this together.” Managing our shared border effectively and beneficially to satisfy the needs of both countries continues to be crucial, and a measurable ­segment in defining the state of affairs. Thus, it is essential to ensure that the management of our shared border achieves these goals.

Canada and the U.S. must avoid and prevent our shared border from becoming a trade barrier causing excess costs that will be detrimental to our joint and separate global competitiveness.

Current events and very real threats dictate that Canada and the U.S. each have to act to protect and preserve their individual quality of life, and success would be best-served by strengthening cooperation and understanding while respecting each as separate sovereign nations.

Make no mistake, there will be major changes in the way Canada and the U.S. do business at the border, therefore, it is important to note that the end game is to construct a secure and trade-efficient Canada/U.S. border.

Economics will determine border management. Constrained budget levels at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will impact heavily. Security efforts are not likely to be reduced. Common sense and reality are needed to effectively, with less cost to government and trade stakeholders, expedite known low-risk trusted-trader shipments and trusted-traveler crossings.  

To achieve this, the Beyond the Border Perimeter Vision Declaration was issued by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper on 4 February 2011, followed by the agreed upon specific Action Plan on 5 December 2011.

Canada and the U.S. officials must factually determine our common threats, and locate where they originate while continuing to implement a joint plan using our combined strategic resources.

Currently the border crossing process is morphing from separate/different to parallel to harmonized to joint and, one hopes, on to integrated. There is a long standing, very successful model in the U.S./Canada Military Defense relationship from which to learn, i.e., NORAD.

Risk management and substantially improved targeting of shipments are core essentials that have become an effective reality. It is not necessary or realistic to physically inspect every container, just 100% of the shipments determined to be unknown or high risk. The economic and public security solution is to identify all of the low-risk shipments (approximately 95%) and only technologically and physically further inspect the remaining 5% that is determined to be unknown or high risk.

The key to achieving public security along with economic security, while substantially reducing congestion and delay, is participation in known low-risk Trusted Trader and Trusted Traveler enrollment processes and pre-arrival information. Access to the primary inspection booths without having to queue using processes such as Traffic Streaming is essential.

Physical reality and infrastructure constraints at the border crossings must be effectively utilized. The current reality is that the least prepared truck in each line dictates the waiting and delay time for all pre-cleared carriers in line behind it. Translation: 45-minute delay wait time just to get to the primary inspection booth to be processed in seconds is ridiculous. Free and Secure Trade (FAST), other Trusted Trader programs Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism/Partners in Protection (C-TPAT/PIP) and “empties” are currently impeded by the physical inability to reach the primary inspection booths to be processed.

The delays are extremely costly to both the shippers and the carriers while also disrupting Just In Time fast-cycle logistics. Delays also waste fuel. Idling exhaust negatively impacts the environment. This is unnecessary. Trucks need to be streamed in. The trucks that are prepared and are participants in the various levels of Trusted Trader compliance and/or pre-cleared should be processed in tandem without waiting needlessly behind those trucks that are not prepared or members of Trusted Trader programs and, therefore, require additional time to be processed at the primary inspection booth.

The solution to prevent unnecessary delays involves traffic management on the approach roads and Commercial Vehicle Processing streaming “upstream” to divert non-Trusted Trader trucks to be metered into the traffic flow to the Plazas before such trucks are allowed to randomly queue in the approach lanes to primary processing booths.

The pre-clearance agreement for the land, marine, and rail modes which provides the legal framework and reciprocal authorities necessary for the CBSA and CBP to effectively carry out their missions in the other country contained in the Beyond The Border Action Plan is a “game changer”.

This paradigm shifting agreement provides high value direct beneficial impacts:

  • Cornwall solution for CBSA to inspect on the U.S. side
  • Peace Bridge commercial processing by CBP in Canada
  • Small Ports inspection (joint 2 officer teams)
  • Rail passenger efficiency: Quebec-NY (eliminate stop at actual Border) and Vancouver-Seattle
  • Secure Transit Corridor (plant to customer, i.e., same drivers, same products, same port)
  • Port specific solutions to maximize utilization, effectiveness and minimize new investment
  • Lead to development of bridge and tunnel crossing processing zones

There is a need for the Canadian government to allow U.S. officials to work on Canadian soil, and vice versa, in the clearance process of people and goods in any mode (land, marine, and rail). This is the basis for implementing the Accord Processing Zones at land border crossings (essentially a very small geographical area within the processing area at each individual border crossing). Such Accord Processing Zones will allow simultaneous enforcement according to both countries’ laws by officers of each country’s agencies regardless whether physically located in the zone on the Canadian or U.S. side as space dictates at each individual location.

Thus the Accord Processing Zone implementation at the shared land border will result in true Joint Facility operations becoming a reality including maximizing the investment for physical infrastructure at Land Border Ports of Entry. This would void the current physical limitation requiring the actual border to run through the building, and sometimes locating the buildings in the wrong place.

Deal with immigration at the source country, in an offshore peri­meter approach. This way, only admissible individuals with ­appropriate documentation can physically land on either Canadian or U.S. soil. This will ensure that high-risk or unknown individuals will receive no-board decisions.

A seamless border is needed between Canada and the U.S. for known legal/low-risk activity. We need a technologically “smart” border and the intelligence input to handle other unknown activity.

Economic vitality is the basis for the power a country commands in the global context. Canada and the U.S. need to insure a trade efficient border under whatever security requirements are needed. It is imperative to look at what doesn’t need to be done at the 49th Parallel as well as what could be done more efficiently offshore at the origin or at the perimeter first point of arrival.

Envisioned end state is 3 for 1: checked once prior to off shore loading and accepted at loading, arrival Canada or U.S. seaport and shared land border.

Expedited cargo clearance requires a completed Beyond The Border Initiative that achieves:

  • Enhanced and effective intelligence
  • Advance accurate data
  • Effective targeting
  • Interchangeable shared data
  • Interoperable technology and equipment
  • Harmonized regulations
  • CBSA one face at the border for all other government agencies

Clearly, Beyond the Border must deliver:

  • Work on each other’s soil at Land Port sites
  • Small/rural Port inspection new paradigm
  • End shared 49th land border duplicate inspections
  • Issue Canada vicinity RFID Passport Companion Card
  • Entry/Exit for people and Import/Export of goods
  • Cross designation 24/7 service when CBP on duty.

(Cross Designation between U.S. government departments: specifically CBP should perform regular FDA inspections to provide this service 24/7 since it is currently not available after 5 p.m. or on weekends.)

  • Streamed access to primary inspection booths
  • Consistent best practices

Bottom line, we need to get the Beyond the Border perimeter strategy done and done right. This includes all of the must haves as listed above, because the global competitiveness and quality of life in both countries depends on it.

Jim Phillips is the President & CEO of the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance (CANAMBTA)
© Frontline Security 2012