For businesses finding that border delays and duplicative inspections are making them uncompetitive and for travelers tired of being stuck in long lines, Christmas came a little early in 2011.The two action plans released by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama on how to make our border and our regulatory processes more efficient provide enormous benefits to citizens and businesses in both our countries that have been affected by a border that’s become so much costlier, thicker and stickier in the last decade.
The plans, which are available here, detail a number of steps the two governments will take to reduce border delays and cut government-imposed costs. While implementation is spread over years and will depend on governments’ ability to make the necessary technology investments and their willingness to change current processes, there are clear deliverables and implementation dates.
By pushing our borders out and obtaining much better information on people and cargo before they have arrived on our shores, Canada will be able to do a much better job of intercepting threats long before they reach the Canada-US border. And by taking low-risk travelers and cargo out of the line, Canada can target its limited security resources where the risks are highest and speed up the border-crossing process for everybody.
The plans cover a lot of ground, but here are a few of the measures that will affect Canadian businesses and consumers:
• Inspect once, accept twice. There will be a pilot project at the Port of Prince Rupert that will mean that cargo entering via the port won’t have to be reinspected when it crosses into the U.S.
• Easier participation by small businesses in trusted cargo programs.
• Fewer hassles for business travelers. For example, where a company sells a machine to someone on the other side of the border and it’s still under warranty, the company will be able to send a technician to do necessary repairs.
• Pre-clearance away from the border. For approved, low-risk shippers, it may be possible to get cargo cleared well before it reaches the border.
• Creation of a “single window” to submit data required by government for shipments instead of requiring businesses to submit the same data to several different agencies.
• Improvements to the availability of Nexus and FAST programs.
• Fewer lost bags for travelers making connecting flights in the US because their luggage won’t need to be rescanned.
• A single window for submitting data to governments instead of having to send the same information to several agencies at the same time.
• A business resumption plan to restore activities following an emergency at the border.
• A range of regulatory improvements that will encourage cooperation and alignment between the two countries, starting with agriculture and food, transportation, health and personal care products and workplace chemicals and the environment.
That’s just part of the package, which includes many of the measures the Canadian Chamber has fought for for years.
And who wins as a result?
• The one in seven Canadians whose job depends on having an open border;
• Canadian businesses that find themselves squeezed between their foreign competitors and government mandated delays and costs that make them uncompetitive;
• Canadian consumers, who will have more choice and lower costs as a result of smarter regulation; and
• Canadian families who will both be safer and spend fewer hours in security-related delays.
Sometimes, governments get it right!