A border that works
By Thomas J. Donohue and Perrin Beatty
Upcoming deal a chance to fix rules that block trade
More trade crosses the border between Canada and the United States than any other national border on earth. Millions of Canadian and American jobs depend on the nearly half a trillion dollars in goods our countries exchange each year. Without a modern, efficient, smoothly functioning border that speeds commerce and travel while upholding our security, many of these jobs will be put at risk and we will squander new trade opportunities that lie before us.
Unfortunately, businesses on both sides point to the growing number of inspections, higher fees, longer wait times, and more infrastructure constraints. Security personnel, meanwhile, complain they don’t have the resources or funding to sufficiently staff the borders under the current policies, and they are rightly frustrated by the lack of technology being utilized.
That’s why we are eagerly awaiting new initiatives and commitments soon to be unveiled by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a U.S.-Canada bilateral agreement called “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.”
Businesses are counting on leaders to forge an agreement that is strategic in its approach to security and ultimately speeds up cross-border trade and travel. The vision for a better border should focus on smarter security. It must remove impediments that cause significant delays, hurt productivity, slow the supply chain, and drag down our economic competitiveness, while still keeping us safe. To that end, we need to examine what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we can do it better.
We already know what isn’t working. Over the past decade, both governments have responded to threats by adding new border mandates and hurdles — rather than replacing broken or insufficient policies with ones that work. This thickening of the border has come at a great cost to trade, travel and tourism, and the personal mobility of our people. We are developing a border that is more fitting for two wary adversaries rather than the loyal friends and dedicated allies we are and will always be.
The U.S. and Canadian chambers of commerce have clearly and consistently pressed leaders to provide the citizens and businesses of our nations a border that works — and they deserve nothing less. Our submission to the Beyond the Border Working Group over the summer outlined our proposals: enhance the benefits of trusted trader and traveller programs; eliminate hassles for business travellers; align and simplify customs procedures by expanding pre-clearance; modernize staffing models and business standards across government departments; and improve search and seizure capabilities to better protect intellectual property rights.
This agreement gives us the chance to fix what’s broken. With commitment from both sides, the Beyond the Border initiative can strengthen the security and efficiency of our borders. In the process, we can spur economic growth and job creation in the U.S. and Canada and increase the competitiveness of both our economies.
Our countries have the experience, creativity, technology, and common sense to get this right. Expanding trade, travel and other exchanges in both directions will create jobs, grow our economies, make us more globally competitive, and in the process generate more government revenues without raising taxes. So let’s get on with it.
Perrin Beatty is chief executive of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. Thomas J. Donohue is CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.