Canada, U.S. announce new customs pre-clearance agreement

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Image: Peace Arch Crossing via Shutterstock

Foreign affairs officials in the Canadian and American federal governments have hammered out a new deal that could significantly speed up customs crossing times for road, land and marine traffic.

The agreement announced on Monday will permit American officials to establish customs facilities on the Canadian side of the border at highway checkpoints before the border, bus depots, train stations and marine terminals. Improvements to cut down on congestion will benefit trade between the countries: about 400,000 people and $2 billion worth in goods crosses the border every day to give the two countries the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship.

The new pre-clearance policy serves as an extension of the existing U.S. transborder pre-clearance facilities that are already in place at eight airports across the country, including Vancouver International Airport and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It replaces the 2001-signed Air Transport Pre-clearance Agreement, which has reduced wait times for air passengers and the number of connections required.

“Our Government’s top priority remains creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians,” reads a statement by Steven Blaney, Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

“This historic new agreement builds on decades of successful preclearance operations in Canadian airports. It will enhance security at our border and create jobs and growth in Canada by improving the flow of legitimate goods and people between our two countries.”

Like at participating airports, U.S. customs agents will be able to work in Canada at U.S. pre-clearance facilities and carry firearms. The agreement also provides the reciprocal opportunity for Canada’s customs agents to work on the American side of the border and carry firearms.

For American agents specifically, they will be unable to make arrests on sovereign Canadian jurisdiction and all activities conducted in Canada would have to be carried out in a manner that abides with Canadian law, which includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act. An equivalent policy applies for Canadian counterparts working in American territory.

The agreement arises from the Beyond the Border initiative signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama in 2011. It still requires approval from both the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. Congress, with the latter likely to be a major obstacle given the prevalent dramatic nature of American politics.

If approved, funding is also needed to cover both the capital costs of infrastructure and the annual operational costs of such pre-clearance programs.

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