BtB Action Plan October 2014 Update

November 6, 2014

Check out the Fall 2014 Update on the Beyond the Border (BtB) Action Plan.  It will be posted on Canada’s main BtB website shortly, but blog readers can check out an advance copy below.

Also, don’t miss out BtB updates (like this one) from the U.S. Department of State.

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Canada-U.S. Trade and Energy News Round-Up

November 3, 2014
  • Canada and U.S. Still Negotiating On Enhancing Free Trade into Agriculture.  The Canadian Press offers an excellent article by Alexander Penetta on how Canada and America’s diplomatic approaches to deepening their trade agreements.  The article does a good job of placing the Canada-U.S. trade relationship into each country’s domestic politics and other international trade objectives.  Key highlight:

    “We believe the president has to seek trade promotion authority,” [Canada’s U.S. Ambassador Gary] Doer said. “We’re having positive discussions now. But you can’t have a situation where a country like Canada can come to an agreement with 12 countries, including the United States, that they can bring back to (Capitol) Hill and it can be amended.”

  • NAFTA Freight Has increased 4.4% Year-to-Year, Exceeds $100 Billion for 6th Consecutive Month.  Updates like this emphasize the importance of NAFTA, and how small efficiencies in border trade can yield consequential returns.  Freight–or bulk goods trade between Canada, Mexico, and the United States–are growing, and trucks are carrying three-fifths of those goods.  (Source: Today’s Trucking)

Key BtB & RCC Stakeholder Press for Further Progress from Canada and the United States

October 20, 2014

Two articles over the weekend highlight cross-border stakeholders’ frustration with progress on the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) and the Beyond the Border (BtB) Action Plan.

‘s Friday article for the Daily Brew emphasizes the lack of urgency from the United States, which is understandably must jostle competing important national priorities.  Chatting with cross-border stakeholders ranging from Queen’s University professor Christian Leuprecht to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Canada Institute associate Andrew Finn, Mertl concludes that–whatever the deficits in American attention–Canada must push forward on BtB initiatives for there to be any hope for the initiative’s lasting success.  (One some complaint:  Still unsure if the final border expert noted is Stefan Sinn or another Sinn… .)

On the other hand, the Canadian Press‘s Sunday article by Alexander Panetta offers up a possible solution to the impasse:  a hackathon.  Chatting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Adam Schlosser and McKenna Long & Aldridge’s Maryscott Greenwood, Panetta lays out how a hackathon, which would bring together techies and other experts with the motivation of a prize, could help spur “simplified inspection processes; a new order of priorities for what should be inspected; where best to allocate border personnel; and using information technology to help vehicles cross at the most convenient spot.”

The articles make clear that there are stakeholders on both sides of the border that see the value of improving upon an already very successful bilateral relationship.

But when it comes to institutionalizing attention and continuous improvement to the Canada-U.S. partnership, perhaps an older idea would be best.  Robert A. Pastor has suggested the U.S. President “designate a national adviser for North American affairs, who would chair a cabinet-level committee to formulate a comprehensive plan and to help the president negotiate the difficult tradeoffs between special interests and national and continental interests.”


Maclean’s Highlights Missed BtB Deadline, Interviews U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

October 16, 2014

Maclean’s Luiza Ch. Savage Interviews U.S. DHS Secretary

Maclean’s Washington D.C. correspondent Luiza Ch. Savage interviewed U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

The interview covers topics ranging from ISIS, Canada-U.S. border security, to the Detroit River International Crossing.  Here are three Q&As particularly relevant to the ongoing Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) and Beyond the Border (BtB) Action Plan.

Q: After your department was created in the wake of 9/11, there was a lot of concern in Canada that this was a department focused on security, and it was dealing with our border and trade relationship. Do you see the economy in any way as a part of your mandate?

A: Part of my mission is promoting lawful trade and travel. Commerce between our two countries passes through ports of entry that are regulated by my department. It’s not simply securing our borders. After 9/11 there was an attitude here to pull the drawbridges up, but we’ve come a long way from that. I think the Beyond the Border initiative has a lot to do with it.

Q: One of the aspects of Beyond the Border is work toward pre-clearance at the land border.

A: Right. I’m a big fan of pre-clearance. We are working toward a pre-clearance agreement with Canada that I think will be unprecedented, where we will have pre-clearance capability at airports, rail stations, land ports of entry. That will be a big deal. [Canadian Public Safety] Minister [Steven] Blaney and I are working toward entering into such an agreement sometime later this year.

Q: Republican Sen. John McCain recently referred to the Canadian border as “porous” and expressed concern that terrorists could come over that border.

A: I would not characterize our border as porous. I would characterize it this way: we’ve put an unprecedented amount of resources on border security by way of people, technology, equipment, vehicles, aircraft, boats. Overall, apprehensions, which are an indicator of total attempts to cross the border, have gone down considerably over our entire border, and the population of undocumented immigrants has stopped growing for the first time since the 1970s.

Missed BtB Deadline on Exchange of Cross-Border Traveler Information

Maclean’s also carried a Canadian Press report on a missed BtB deadline.  The deadline was related to Canada and the United States sharing traveler information of all cross-border travelers in order to enhance border security.

From yesterday’s report.

“The Beyond the Border action plan is on track. Are we exactly where we wished to be? Not exactly, but we are moving in the right direction,” [stated Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney Wednesday].

The public safety minister is downplaying the Conservative government’s failure to introduce a system to track the travel of potential terrorists, despite a deadline in a security pact with the United States that passed more than three months ago.

The 2011 Canada-U.S. perimeter security agreement, known as Beyond the Border, included a provision that would see Canada collect records on people leaving the country on international flights. The measure is designed to track potential terrorists who leave the country to join overseas conflicts.

The agreement set a deadline of June 30 of this year, but such a system is not yet in place, nor are the legislative and regulatory changes that would be required first.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney insisted Wednesday that Canada remains committed to tracking and sharing information about international travel with the United States, though he suggested the security pact was merely a road map rather than a firm timeline.


30+ RCC Shareholders Emphasize Support for Joint Forward Plan, Press for “Additional Specific and More Concrete Details”

October 15, 2014

30+ shareholders of the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) have released a letter in support of progress made on Canada-U.S. regulatory cooperation.

This group, which encompasses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the Council of the Great Lakes Region, notes that the “U.S. and Canadian governments remain committed to making the RCC an ongoing success.”  And the letter also emphasizes that the “Joint Forward Plan lays out the foundation for continued success and is a step in the right direction towards realizing the many potential benefits of the RCC.”

But the letter also stresses that Canada and the United States make “strong commitments” in four areas to ensure “the [RCC’s] continued success.”

These areas are:  (1) completing the current 29 RCC joint action plans, (2) fleshing out the new areas of regulatory cooperation highlighted by the Joint Forward Plan, (3) steps to ensure current regulatory cooperation is durable and institutionalized, and (4) an action plan to “establish routine, two-way communications” with RCC stakeholders.

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RCC Updates: Canadian International Trade Minister Endorses Joint Forward Plan; Progress on Chemical Management Policy

October 9, 2014

Two updates on the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC).

Erin O’Toole, the Canadian Minister for International Trade was in Washington, D.C. and endorsed the Joint Forward Plan,  the next phase of the RCC.  The RCC is a binational effort to enhance regulatory cooperation between Canada and the United States.

O’Toole made the endorsement at a meeting of Canadian and American regulators that took place Tuesday and Wednesday.  The regulators met to map out areas where current regulatory cooperation can be enhanced or institutionalized.

From the press release on Minster O’Toole’s endorsement:

“Through the RCC, our two governments have been focusing on simplifying and aligning regulations. Aligning our regulatory approaches and reducing red tape leads to lower costs for Canadian firms and consumers, increased trade and investment opportunities, and ultimately to more jobs—on both sides of the border,” [stated Minister O’Toole.]

…[Minister] O’Toole noted some of the specific results from the first phase of the plan, including development of a common electronic submission gateway for pharmaceutical and biological products, a pilot project for regulatory oversight on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway, mutual decision making on zoning for foreign animal diseases, and development of a joint review process for agricultural pesticides with minor uses. Mr. O’Toole encouraged regulators and stakeholders in both countries to work together to realize the potential of this new phase of Canada-U.S. regulatory cooperation, which will help increase prosperity on both sides of the border.

And progress on the Joint Forward Plan can already be seen.  From today’s Chemical Watch, which discusses bilateral efforts to enhance the regulations governing chemicals management:

The US EPA, Environment Canada and Health Canada have issued a two-page “thought starter” on which areas of chemicals management policy could be included in the next work phase of the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) – a joint regulatory review forum, established by the two neighbouring countries.

The paper was presented by agency officials at video-linked concurrent meetings in Mississauga, Canada, and Washington DC on 8 October, and consists of two suggested work plans that could become part of the RCC’s next joint forward plan; one on risk assessment, and one on the two countries’ respective reporting instruments on new chemical uses – Significant New Activity (Snac) notices in Canada and Significant New Use Rules (Snurs) in the US.


Canada-U.S. Progress on Regulatory Cooperation: Joint Action Plan and this Week’s Bi-National Meetings

October 7, 2014

Luiza Ch. Savage reports on progress Canada and the United States are making on regulatory cooperation.

From yesterday’s Maclean’s:

On Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, some 70 regulators from Canada will sit down with 134 from the U.S. to begin the daunting task of bringing the two regulatory systems into greater sync. They represent about 90 per cent of the regulators responsible for goods that cross the border—from food to automobiles. Another 200 representatives of industry and associations will sit down with the regulators on Wednesday to give input into the kinds of regulatory differences that impose unintentional costs on businesses and consumers.

“We have been blown away by the interest in this,” said Carberry.

The goal is to fundamentally change the relationships between regulators in both countries—to make the alignment of rules and procedures the default, rather than the exception—and to end the “tyranny of small differences” that raise costs.

Until now, progress has been ad hoc and tentative: some veterinary drugs have been approved through joint testing, and the two countries have collaborated on vehicle emissions standards, for example. Carberry says that’s about to change as the regulatory agencies meet and design a work plan for the coming year.

The meetings come after Canada and the United States released the Joint Forward Plan, a report that reviews and lays out the next steps in Canada-U.S. regulatory cooperation.


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