Tuesday, December 13, 2011

US, Canada Seal Border Trade Agreement

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama have signed a series of new trade agreements – collectively called the Beyond the Border plan – that are intended to expedite the inspection and clearance of cargo arriving via ship, truck or train.

“These agreements represent the most significant step forward in Canada-US cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” Prime Minister Harper said in a statement upon the Dec. 7 announcement of the deal.

The plan allows for the two countries to more closely complement customs and security operations along the US-Canada border to expedite the crossing of goods. It reduces redundant checks performed by both customs agencies at the border and expands programs that accelerate border crossing for trusted traders and their cargo.

One of the key elements of the Beyond the Border plan is implementation of new pre-clearance policies for goods being imported from abroad to the US or Canada, meaning that goods being imported at designated ports will be cleared for customs there and won’t have to go through a second clearing at a land crossing.

The plan also includes creation of a system to electronically submit required cargo documentation to both countries; increased transparency in border fees and tariffs; and the establishment of a new strategy to expedite truck traffic between the two countries by 2014.

Under the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy, all cargo to be transported by truck would be inspected at the port where it enters the US or Canada and wouldn’t have to be checked a second time when crossing the Canada-US border.

In a statement, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents about 4,500 drivers, hailed the agreement as an “historic achievement that takes meaningful steps to bring the Canada-US border into the 21st century.”