The U.S. and Canada took numerous steps in 2014 to strengthen perimeter security and improve economic competitiveness, according to a recent report on achievements under the Beyond the Border Action Plan. This plan sets out joint priorities for work in four areas of cooperation: addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cyber-security.
According to the report, progress and accomplishments to date include the following.
Cargo Security. Pilot projects at the Canadian ports of Prince Rupert and Montreal that tested the ability to use advance data and adopt common standards for security screening and inspecting inbound marine cargo at the first point of arrival in North America have been completed. Preliminary findings from criteria specific to the Prince Rupert pilot suggest that while screening for national security purposes has been successfully tested, a series of operational impediments prevented the full testing of Integrated Cargo Security Strategy principles for other purposes. In-depth assessments are expected to be completed in 2015.
Over the last three years the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have conducted joint site visits and developed common assessment processes for commodities from third countries. The agencies have also developed and tested common verification methodologies for joint food safety assessments of eligible meat exports from third countries.
In 2014, USDA and CFIA signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes a process for sharing information related to animal health risks in third countries. They also released a final summary report on their successful joint assessments of the Asian gypsy moth programs in Japan, Korea and China.
Moving forward, the two sides plan to identify what needs to be in place (e.g., multi-modal manifests, inspection protocols, harmonized processes and standards) to achieve the vision of “cleared once, accepted twice.” They will also work to ensure that commensurate security controls exist within the secure supply chains of their air cargo security programs.
Preclearance. In March 2015 the U.S. and Canada signed a preclearance agreement that provides the authorities required to effectively process goods and people in all modes of transportation. Preclearance involves an examination of travelers and/or cargo by the destination country at designated preclearance sites inside the territory of the departure country, which can reduce congestion and related delays at the border.
The new agreement will update the existing agreement on air preclearance, which is currently in effect for travelers at eight Canadian airports, and offers the possibility of opening new preclearance facilities in the land, rail and marine modes in the future. For example, if full preclearance operations are approved in the rail mode, trains that were previously required to stop at the border for inspection may instead be precleared and permitted to travel straight across the border on schedule.
The U.S. and Canada concluded in January 2015 the operational test phase of a truck cargo pre-inspection pilot at the Peace Bridge crossing between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y., which tested the concept of U.S. Customs and Border Protection conducting primary inspections of U.S.-bound cargo by truck on the Canadian side of the border in order to determine the effect on border wait times and congestion. An evaluation is currently underway.
The ability to implement a pilot for preclearance of fresh meat exports was negatively affected as a result of policy challenges and several logistical impediments. Building on lessons learned from work done to date, the two countries are exploring alternative means to advance the objective of enhancing the efficiency of exporting Canadian meat products to the U.S.
In-Bond/In-Transit Cargo. In October 2014 both countries determined a set of common data elements required for in-bond/in-transit cargo that will apply to goods originating from one country and destined to another location in that country but whose routing transits the other country. This should enable the launch of a U.S. pilot in 2015 to test a new in-bond module process, potentially reducing the reporting burden on industry and – as data will be sent pre-arrival – allowing for the advance assessment of risks. Additionally, Canadian carriers will have more options with respect to the routing of domestic shipments through the U.S. on safer, multi-lane divided highways.
Trusted Trader. A fully automated process allowing cross-border carriers to submit a single application for both the Partnership in Protection and Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism programs is expected to be launched by this fall.
Canada is moving to regularize PIP member access to the Free and Secure Trade lane at the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia following a successful pilot project at that location and will extend access to other locations as volumes allow. Canada is also moving to add FAST lane/booth infrastructure at two high-volume commercial ports of entry and to modify the current FAST infrastructure model at a third location.
In January Canada began an agri-food pilot whereby grade-related inspections by USDA or the CFIA are not necessary for U.S.-grown onions imported into Canada. Following completion of the pilot, expected in 2015, CFIA will determine the next steps, taking into consideration USDA’s ability to undertake a similar reciprocal pilot for Canadian-grown onions imported into the U.S.
CFIA released in October 2014 a summary report of a pilot undertaken to test the feasibility of extending trusted trader Tier II benefits to processed food companies. The report describes the pilot outcomes and outlines next steps, which include evaluating how to expand Tier II benefits to other approved, low-risk processed food importers while ensuring compliance with federal food safety requirements.
Moving forward, the two sides will work to increase participation in trusted trader programs by continuing harmonization and alignment efforts, ensuring meaningful benefits and working toward mutual recognition.
Cyber Security. In 2014 the U.S. and Canada began exploring the cyber security of the supply chain and electronic cargo systems to build awareness of the cyber vulnerabilities and threats in this area and to formulate a collaborative action plan to assess unforeseen vulnerabilities with high potential impact.
Infrastructure. The U.S. and Canada finalized in December 2014 a significantly expanded joint border infrastructure investment plan that details major upgrades at the top 25 commercial and passenger land border crossings. In February 2015 the two sides concluded and signed an arrangement to secure and expedite the building of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit, the busiest Canada-U.S. commercial border crossing.