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Canadian Truckers Say Canada-US Border Agreement Delivers

Leaders’ announcement is historic, helps create 21st century border

OTTAWA -- The Canadian Trucking Alliance is hailing today's Canada-US border agreement announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama as a historic achievement that takes meaningful steps to bringing the Canada-US border into the 21st century. Trucks are the major mode of transborder freight transport between the world’s largest bilateral trading partners.

"This is a great day for the trucking industry and the trade community in both countries," says David Bradley, president of the 4,500-member company trucking alliance. "The leaders and the governments of both great nations are to be commended. The action plans effectively balance security and trade imperatives while restoring a meaningful return on investment in the trusted trader programs and creating the opportunity for a more efficient and productive border."

Over the past several months, CTA consulted extensively with both agencies responsible for drafting the Action Plan -- the Beyond the Border Working Group and the Canada–US Regulatory Cooperation Council – proposing a number of doable measures the Alliance felt would improve trade facilitation and reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers.

"The announcement today delivers in several tangible ways," says Bradley, "and creates a pathway to further cooperation.

"Of all the announcements made today, perhaps the greatest bang for our buck in the Action Plan is the harmonization between Canada and the U.S. on the data requirements for in transit goods movement which temporarily travel through one of the two countries."

Canada's rules allow the movement of goods in-transit by a US carrier. But after post-Sept. 11 security rules were implemented, the U.S. essentially killed Canadian carriers' ability to transport domestic loads through the U.S. by requiring full customs documentation. Restoring carriers' ability to move in-transit means more efficient trade, lower costs and faster truck transit times for Canadian carriers moving domestic goods through the U.S.

To restore competitive balance, the U.S. government has effectively agreed to harmonize its current rules with Canada. The alternative would have been for Canada to mirror the U.S. policy, putting an end to the practice and effectively eliminating the efficiencies altogether.
 
"We're happy to see it didn't come to that," says Bradley. "CTA has been seeking U.S. harmonization with Canadian rules for years, and now the Perimeter Action Plan has delivered."

Among the many positive measures for the trucking industry contained in today's announcement is as follows:

• Mutual Recognition of Trusted Trader Programs -- The Alliance also applauds the Perimeter Action Plan's mutual recognition of the two main "trusted trader" risk assessment programs -- the U.S. Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and the Canada Border Services Agency's Partners In Protection (PIP). CTA had been urging greater flexibility in how each program determines carrier and shipper access to FAST lanes into Canada. Currently, companies must apply to both programs separately, despite the fact that the information required is identical.

"Given the high level of harmonization between the two programs already, it made sense to move toward a more streamlined process including a single application via automated enrollment system, expanding benefits so more products are eligible for FAST lane access for trusted shippers," says Bradley. "Also, the move towards full harmonization enables carriers in either program to take advantage of the benefits of the other."

• FAST Cards -- Governments will examine ways to allow FAST cards to meet requirements of other security programs, involving CBSA, CBP and other government agencies. 

• Pre-Inspection -- Another intriguing border provision could reduce the number of customs inspections for truck freight moving across the Canada-U.S. border. A pilot slated for launch at the Port of Montreal will introduce an 'inspect once, accept twice' concept, where freight arriving at the North American border will only be inspected by one Customs agency but will be accepted by both countries.

• Pre-Clearance -- USCBP will implement a pre-clearance pilot at a land border by Sept. 2012, quite possibly the Peace Bridge, where infrastructure limitations contribute to traffic congestion. Facilities at the Peace Bridge would allow trucks to be pre-cleared on the Canadian side of the border by CBP prior to entering the U.S. CTA has historically cautioned against any initiative that would see trucks stopping twice where currently there is only one stop, however the Alliance looks forward to working with governments and local port officials on this initiative to ensure optimum efficiencies are achieved.

• Border Crossing Fees -- Governments have committed to conduct an inventory and assessment that examines the rationale and impact for the multitude of border crossing fees, including such irritants as the APHIS fees.

• RFID -- Border infrastructure means more than just building roads and bridges. CTA is pleased that funding has been identified for Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and anticipates that under the review of trusted trader facilities it could lead to expansion of FAST lanes and RFID technology for commercial lanes.

• Wood Packaging Material -- The action plan commits to finding ways to ensure that inspection of pallets and other packaging materials is done away from the border and does not disrupt border operations.

One of CTA's proposed regulatory measures was the modernization of the rules governing the repositioning of foreign empty trailers. While this was not part of the action plan announced today, Bradley says he is encouraged that the issue remains on the table.

"The commitment to performance measurements and reporting publicly on progress on the Action Plan is a clear indication that this is the beginning of a process of improvements, not the end," says Bradley. "We will continue to work closely with the officials leading Canada's team on these outstanding initiatives."

"In the meantime, we are pleased to have been actively engaged throughout the process and appreciate that the decision-makers on both sides of the border listened to our concerns and suggestions."

© 2012, Canadian Trucking Alliance