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.

View this document on Scribd

BTB Action Plan Update: Canada-U.S. Announce Three Key Deliverables

July 23, 2014

This Monday, Canada and the United States announced three Beyond the Border Action Plan deliverables:

Canada and the United States have the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, and initiatives like these increase trade, enhance border security, and help make North American companies more competitive in the global market place.

From CBP.gov press release issued Monday:

The United States and Canada today announced the two countries are delivering on key Beyond the Border Action Plan commitments related to joint Trusted Traveler and Trusted Trader programs through U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency. The deliverables include the official opening of the eGate pilot project that allows NEXUS members extended expedited passage at the Peace Bridge port of entry in Fort Erie, Ontario.

“Our continued success in achieving Beyond the Border milestones illustrates our commitment to a strong partnership between the United States and Canada,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “The harmonization of trusted trader and traveler programs benefits those crossing the border as well as the economic security of both countries.”

“These innovative initiatives are important examples of the continued enhancements being made to these successful Trusted Traveller and Trusted Trader programs,” said The Honourable Steven Blaney, Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. “They highlight our binational commitment to initiatives outlined in the Beyond the Border Action Plan. I am confident that these steps will keep travel and trade moving efficiently and securely between Canada and the United States.”


B.C. Offers Up Columbia River Treaty Renewal Wishlist

March 14, 2014
CBC News and Reuters Canada reports on ongoing negotiations over the  Columbia River Treaty (CRT).  What’s CRT?  It’s a 1964 Canada-U.S. treaty that established the following:
 
  • In return for $64 million, Canada provides the United States an assured Pacific flood control plan for 40 years
  • As part of this plan, Canada had to build three dams:  the Mica, Arrow, and Duncan.
  • It permitted America to build the Libby Dam in Montana.
  • Equal Canadian and American shares in the downstream hydropower benefits of the treaty management system.

The U.S. offered it’s renewal wishlist three months ago.  This week, British Columbia has offered up its own CRT renewal wishlist.  (Check this out to learn more about the CRT’s interesting history and why the treaty’s prolonged renewal negations shouldn’t surprise anyone.)

While most press on this subject highlights the financial aspects of the deal, more significant are how Canada and the United States will manage CRT’s ecological aspects.  The treaty represents an impressive achievement of two nation’s sharing and protecting vital waterways.  

Now facing 21st century ecological tensions, CRT’s treaty renewal is a ongoing case-study in the evolution of the Canada-U.S. bilateral relationship. 

From Nicole Mordant’s Reuters Canada CRT article:

The Canadian province of British Columbia said on Thursday it wants to keep a 50-year-old Canada-U.S. pact on Columbia River flood control and power generation in place, but it urged the federal government to push for what it called improvements.

The announcement of the Pacific Coast province’s stance on renewing the Columbia River Treaty, which has been in effect since 1964, came three months after the agencies leading a U.S. review of the pact recommended that Washington continue the agreement, but that it reduce the payments it makes to Canada under the treaty.


“NORAD Next” Initiative Continues, But Political and Fiscal Roadblocks Remain

March 14, 2014

The Ottawa Citizen reports on future plans for one of NORAD, a 1958 agreement crafted to protect Canada and the United States from then Soviet nuclear threat.  

While NORAD failed to get mention in Beyond the Border’s (BTB) first report card, its proof of the benefits that Canadian and American security cooperation yields.

But, as the Ottawa Citizen points out, it’s also showing the difficulty of today’s budget politics and the still unclear benefits of developing the Arctic region.  (Learn more about NORAD and the “NORAD Next” Initiative here.)

From the Ottawa Citizen:

The joint Canada-U.S. North American Aerospace Defence Command wants improved surveillance systems to keep close tabs on increasing activity in the Arctic, particularly in the region’s waters, according to documents obtained by the Citizen.

Although the installation of any new systems wouldn’t take place until around 2025, the final report on what needs to be done will be presented to top military commanders on both sides of the border this spring.

The “Norad Next” initiative aims to provide direction for the alliance in the coming decades and determine what threats North America might face. It would see “the future modernization of the Norad surveillance network to provide improved multi-domain coverage, particularly in the Arctic region,” according to a May 2012 briefing paper obtained by the Citizen under the Access to Information law.

In addition, there have been delays and problems with the Arctic-related equipment purchases and infrastructure initiatives.

National Defence had been expecting to take delivery of the first of its Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships in 2013. That, however, was delayed to 2015. But according to documents presented to the House of Commons that delivery will now be delayed until 2018, at least.

Plans for a naval facility at Nanisivik, Nunavut, have been scaled back because of the high cost of building in the North.


Phase II of Truck Pre-Inspection Pilot Starts at Peace Bridge

February 25, 2014

Yesterday Canada and the United States announced Phase 2 of the Truck Pre-Inspection pilot project at the Peace Bridge, which will have U.S.-bound trucks pre-inspected in Canada.  The result:  reducing border wait times at a critical crossing, and testing whether such a system can be expanded to other border-crossing sites.

The Phase II pilot, launched Monday by Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney, Minister of National Defence Robert Nicholson, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY); and Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY), continues work that was started at the Pacific Highway border crossing between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington as part of the Beyond the Border (BTB) Action Plan.

Learn more about how the BTB Action Plan can strengthen the Canada-U.S. economic and security relationship here.

The Public Safety Canada Phase II press release, quoting President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty, sums up the pilot’s potential:  “The program has the potential to dramatically reduce wait times at one of the busiest border crossings between Canada and the U.S. Its successful implementation will go a long way towards making our shared border more efficient.”

And the DHS press release highlights the immediate value of the pilot, along with pilot’s long-term potential: 

“Today is a banner day for Western New York, its commuters, restaurants, businesses, sports teams, residents and more,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer. “It’s been a long road getting the Peace Bridge chosen as one of only two pilot sites in the country for pre-clearance of commercial truck traffic on the Canadian side, but I am confident it will prove worth the wait. Starting today, the pilot program will make history in Western New York, and if it’s successful, could lead to its permanence and the relocation of all truck inspections to Ontario.”

AP reporter Carolyn Thompson offers an excellent article on yesterday’s launch at ABCNews.com

U.S. customs officers began inspecting U.S.-bound cargo trucks in Canada Monday under a pilot program intended to relieve congestion at one of the border’s busiest commercial crossings.

Authorities will watch to see whether pre-inspecting trucks on the roomier Canadian side of the Peace Bridge will reduce wait times and pollution-causing idling on the 86-year-old span between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo.

The bridge handled 1.2 million truck trips and more than $40 billion in trade last year, making it the third-busiest truck crossing on the U.S.-Canada border. The three-lane span also saw more than 4.7 million passenger cars, more than any other port of entry.

With the U.S. side of the bridge lacking space to increase capacity, lawmakers have for several years wanted to shift some inspections to Canada. But they faced a myriad of jurisdictional and other obstacles, including objections to armed U.S. officers working in Canada, which only recently armed its border officers.

“The reaction of most people was to throw up their hands and say let’s forget about it, and we persisted,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a news conference attended by Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Canada’s minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, Steven Blaney. “We just had to keep showing people how important this was to our mutual economy. That’s the bottom line here.”


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