Border security and threat response discussed at summit Border security and threat response discussed at summit
Wednesday May 7 2008
By David Tilson, M.P. Dufferin-Caledon

In April, Prime Minister Harper participated in the North American Leaders' Summit in New Orleans.
This annual Summit provides three neighbouring countries, Canada, the United States, and Mexico, with an opportunity to discuss how they can continue to work together on issues of mutual importance. This year's Summit was particularly productive, as Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed Canada's focus on several key areas.

One of the key areas, the three countries agreed, was a renewed focus on increasing the competitiveness of our businesses and economies. We will accomplish this by working to make our regulations more compatible, which will support integrated supply chains and reduce the cost of goods traded within North America.

The auto industry is an example, as we are seeking to implement compatible fuel-efficiency regimes and high safety standards to protect human health and the environment, as well as reducing the costs of producing cars and trucks for the North American market. We are also strengthening efforts to protect our inventors, authors, performers, and other innovators by advancing our Intellectual Property Action Strategy.

Border security was also an issue of importance and focus for all three countries. The leaders agreed that to make our borders 'smarter' and more secure, we are co-ordinating our long-term infrastructure plans and taking steps to reduce bottlenecks and congestion at major border crossings.

The three countries are working together to co-ordinate the efforts of federal agencies to enhance capacity at major border crossing points, such as Detroit-Windsor and San Diego-Tijuana. We are deepening co-operation on the development and application of border technology, as well as strengthening trusted traveller and shipper customs procedures. Furthermore, we are looking at new customs procedures, such as a more uniform filing procedure with the aim of reducing transactional costs, while enhancing security.

We renewed our efforts and focus on strengthening energy security and protecting the environment. In order to do this, we are attempting to develop a framework for harmonization of energy efficiency standards and sharing technical information to improve the North American energy market. Our countries intend to work together to create an outlook for biofuels for the region, enhance our electricity networks, and make more efficient use of our energy by increasing the fuel efficiency of our vehicles. There was also a commitment to reduce barriers to expanding clean energy technologies.

All three countries agreed on a renewed focus to improve our citizens' access to safe food, as well as health and consumer products in North America. We are addressing this issue by working to strengthen our respective regulatory and inspection systems to protect consumers, while maintaining the efficient flow of food and products among the three countries. We are also working to make our food and product safety standards more compatible and to improve continental recall capacities, while working with the private sector to ensure our efforts are complementary.

Finally, a renewed focus to improve our response to emergencies was also discussed during the Summit. We are updating our bilateral agreements to enable our local, state, provincial, and federal authorities to help each other quickly and efficiently during times of crisis and great need, including responding to threats posed by cyber or chemical-biological attacks.

In this respect, we've made marked progress in discussions for new bilateral emergency management agreements to help manage the movement of goods and people across the border during and after the emergency.

During the Summit, our countries also reaffirmed our shared commitment to continue efforts to fight trans-national threats that pose challenges to our countries and to the well-being of all citizens, such as: organized crime; trafficking of arms, people, and drugs; smuggling; terrorism; money laundering; counterfeiting; and border violence.

The North American Leaders' Summit addressed many of the most significant issues that Canada, the United States, and Mexico are all facing today. We recognize that working together on these issues is key to overcoming them. Our government looks forward to working with these countries and our citizens to develop the most comprehensive and effective approaches in the coming months. ... icle/48379