In a bid to boost the efficient flow of people and goods while maintaining strong border security, the U.S. and Canada agreed on Monday to extend customs preclearance to border crossings by rail, land and water. Under preclearance, U.S. border officials work on Canadian soil to inspect and vet the goods or people seeking entry into the U.S.
Customs preclearance was already available to air travelers, but Canadian exporters have long complained that congestion at land and water crossings hampers their competitiveness. A few years ago, Washington and Ottawa pledged to integrate security efforts and accelerate the flow of trade, with President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signing the Beyond the Border deal in 2011.
The most recent White House progress report on the 2011 U.S.-Canada border initiative said the two countries had made strides but acknowledged some important elements had fallen behind schedule, including a preclearance arrangement.
At a news conference in Washington, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said the deal advances the shared interest of the two countries in beefing up perimeter security, while at the same time addressing economic competitiveness.
“This will reduce congestion and delays at the border, and increase efficiency and predictability in cross-border travel, tourism and transportation,” Mr. Johnson said, adding it would also strengthen the security of the shared border.
Mr. Blaney said it was critical for the U.S. and Canada “to manage the shared border in a way that doesn’t turn into a barrier to commerce or prosperity” even amid security threats.
The deal still requires the approval of lawmakers on both sides of the border. It wasn’t clear when and where facilities would be built to allow for the increased preclearance of goods and people.
The U.S. estimates that 300,000 people cross the U.S.-Canada border each day, while the two countries conduct $2 billion in the trade of goods and services daily, the largest trading relationship anywhere in the world.
The deal on preclearance comes as relations between the U.S. and Canada are being tested by the years long approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline.