New U.S.-Canada Action Plan Aims to Implement “Perimeter Approach” to Security and Trade
Following a Dec. 7 meeting between President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the U.S. and Canada released an action plan detailing the ways they intend to implement the shared vision for security and economic competitiveness that they announced in February. This action plan establishes joint priorities within four areas of cooperation: addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cyber security. The Department of Homeland Security is requesting comments on this plan no later than Jan. 9, 2012.
Among the trade-related steps set forth by this plan are the following.
Inbound Cargo Screening
The U.S. and Canada plan to develop an integrated, multi-modal customs and transportation security regime that will reduce duplication and move activities away from the border. Building on previous agreements and existing programs of work, authorities will do the following.
• Evaluate and achieve mutual recognition of respec¬tive air cargo security programs for passenger aircraft by March 2012, with the goal of reducing the number of air cargo loads rescreened to zero by that date.
• Develop a common set of required data elements for all modes of transport for advance security screening of cargo by June 30, 2012, identify and evaluate by September 2012 options under which trusted traders could use alternate processes and approaches to submit advance data elements, and implement the common sets of required data, as well as any alternate processes and approaches for trusted traders, by December 2013.
• Develop a joint strategy to address security and contraband risks (with other areas of activity to be added over time) associated with shipments arriving from offshore based on informed risk management. The two sides anticipate achieving a clear reduction in the number and volume of transshipments subjected to reinspection at the border on an annual basis.
Phase I of this process will see the development of the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy by June 30, 2012. Phase II will begin in September 2012 with the launch of pilot programs intended to validate and shape the implementation of the strategy, which is then anticipated to begin in 2014. Canada’s pilots will involve pre-load information and targeting in the air mode as well as perimeter vetting and examination of inbound marine cargo at Prince Rupert destined for Chicago by rail and of marine cargo arriving at Montreal destined to the U.S. by truck. U.S. pilots will involve the harmonization of targeting and risk assessment methodologies and the targeting and risk assessment of cargo arriving from offshore at a major U.S. port destined for Canada as well as the testing of a new in-bond module for processing in-transit/in-bond (Canada–United States–Canada) cargo traveling by truck. Canada will build new cargo examination facilities in Halifax and Vancouver as necessary to support of this initiative.
Supply Chain Security
The U.S. and Canada will adopt a common framework for trusted trader programs that will align requirements, enhance member benefits and provide applicants with the opportunity to submit one application to multiple programs.
Under tier one of this framework the two sides will harmonize the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Partners in Protection program and offer new benefits, includ¬ing an automated enrollment system. Free and Secure Trade benefits will be extended to members in these programs at agreed locations beginning in mid-2012, and Canada will develop an interoperable communication portal similar to that of the U.S. by December 2013.
Under tier two, Canada’s Customs Self-Assessment and the U.S. Importer Self-Assessment programs will be aligned to the greatest extent possible while enabling members the flexibility to select the benefits that meet their business needs. A detailed comparison and review of these two programs will be completed by June 2012. Membership in these programs will be extended to non-resident importers between the United States and Canada. Finally, a report on pilot programs or new initiatives to collect advance data through more efficient means that are more responsive to shippers’ business processes will be completed by September 2012.
By July 2012 Canada will initiate a one-year pilot to provide tier-two benefits to the processed food sector, enabling participants to provide transactional data to the regulatory authority post-border and access expedited clearance processes and lanes at the border in Canada. Within one year of the pilot’s successful completion, permanent access to these program benefits will be provided to all approved companies by Canada. The two sides will also explore product-specific pilots aimed at lowering inspection rates for certain industry sectors based on regulatory compliance history. Canada will lead a pilot in the agri-food sector and the United States will lead a pilot in the pharmaceutical sector.
New Initiatives to Expedite Cargo
Pre-inspection/Pre-clearance. The U.S. and Canada will negotiate by December 2012 a pre-clearance agreement in the land, rail and marine modes to provide the legal framework and reciprocal authorities necessary for the CBP and CBSA to effectively carry out their security, facilitation and inspection processes in the other country. CBSA will conduct full pre-clearance of goods and travelers at Massena, N.Y., and negotiations to this end will be completed by December 2012. CBP will implement by September 2012 a truck cargo facilitation pilot project in at least one location in Canada, with an expansion to additional sites possible. A joint working group will complete by December 2012 a study identifying and addressing any policy, program or operational changes required to move inspections for wood packaging material away from the border.
Single Window for Information Submission. CBP and CBSA will provide traders with a single window through which they can electronically submit all information required to comply with customs and other government regulations. As part of this process the data requirements of all participating government departments and agencies (but only information essential for regulatory purposes) will be converted to electronic form by 2013. As an interim milestone, border-related decision processes for at least the top four priority departments and agencies will be converted to electronic form no later than December 2013.
Harmonizing Low-Value Shipment Processes. The value thresholds for expedited customs clearance will be increased to $2,500 from $2,000 in the U.S. and $1,600 in Canada.
Evaluate Effect of Border Fees. Both countries will develop an inventory of fees and charges at the border that sets out the purpose and legal basis of those fees, how they are collected, how much is collected, their intended use and the rationale for collecting them at the border. A third party will be commissioned to conduct an economic impact assessment of such fees, includ¬ing their cumulative effect, on the competitive position of three economic sectors in the U.S. and Canada for which cross-border activity is important. A report on these efforts will be made public by Sept. 30, 2012.
Authorities have committed to make significant investments in physical infrastructure at key crossings to relieve congestion and speed the movement of traffic across the border. These upgrades may include customs plaza replacement and redevelopment, additional primary inspection lanes and booths, expanded or new secondary inspection facilities, and expanded or new connecting roads, highway interchanges and bridges. As initial priorities, the U.S. will put forward for approval Alexandria Bay, N.Y.; Blue Water Bridge, Mich.,; Lewiston Bridge, N.Y.; and Peace Bridge, N.Y., and Canada will put forward Emerson, Manitoba; Lacolle, Quebec; Lansdowne, Ontario; North Portal, Saskatchewan; and Peace Bridge, Ontario. Coordinated project investment and implementation plans will be developed by June 30, 2012.
Food, Plant and Animal Safety
With respect to food safety systems, by Dec. 31, 2012, the U.S. and Canada will develop joint methodologies, including audit criteria, for conducting audits; develop joint audit plans to pilot the evaluation of foreign food safety inspection systems in third countries, the outcomes of which will be used to establish the protocol and a plan for future joint audits; and develop a protocol for what information from audits can be shared, how it may be shared, and how to use the findings of these site visits in risk management decisions.
With respect to animals and plants, authorities will develop by Dec. 31, 2012, assessment processes and joint site visit plans for com¬modities of common interest from third countries and address how to incorporate the findings of these site visits into risk management decisions. They also plan to develop a mechanism to share the results of assessments when conducted separately.