Canada hop­ing for progress on bor­der pre­clear­ance dur­ing Mon­day meet­ing

Pre­par­ing for visit to Washington, Trudeau gov­ern­ment wants to get two coun­tries mov­ing on trade pri­or­i­ties

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JIM BRONSKILL The Cana­dian Press With files from Alexander Panetta in Washington

Canada hopes to ce­ment progress on keep­ing the bor­der open to trade and trav­ellers when Justin Trudeau vis­its Mon­day with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, whose con­tro­ver­sial travel ban mea­sures re­cently cre­ated con­sid­er­able con­fu­sion at the 49th par­al­lel.

The two coun­tries have been peck­ing away for years at a list of items in­tended to bol­ster con­ti­nen­tal se­cu­rity while en­sur­ing the speedy flow of goods and peo­ple across the bor­der.

Dur­ing his first year in of­fice, Trudeau built on the ef­forts of pre­de­ces­sor Stephen Harper to im­ple­ment pro­grams set out in the De­cem­ber 2011 Beyond the Bor­der agree­ment forged by Ot­tawa and Washington.

The new U.S. pres­i­dent’s strong em­pha­sis on home­land se­cu­rity and ex­treme vet­ting of new­com­ers — spelled out in an ex­ec­u­tive or­der on im­mi­gra­tion — caught many in Canada off guard and re­sulted in the can­cel­la­tion of about 200 Nex- us trusted-trav­eller cards held by Cana­dian per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

The cards have since been re­in­stated, but the out­come re­mains un­clear pend­ing court de­ci­sions.

Canada is ex­pected to seek as­sur­ances from the United States on a will­ing­ness to work to­gether in a way that avoids such un­pleas­ant hic­cups, and keeps mu­tual projects on track, in the months and years ahead.

“We’re go­ing to talk about all sorts of things we align on, like jobs and eco­nomic growth, op­por­tu­ni­ties for the mid­dle class — the f act that mil­lions of good jobs on both sides of our bor­der de­pend on the smooth flow of goods and ser­vices across that bor­der,” Trudeau said Fri­day.

“We’re also, I’m sure, go­ing to talk about things ... we dis­agree on, and we’ll do it in a re­spect­ful way.”

Mul­ti­ple sources in Ot­tawa and Washington say the Trudeau gov­ern­ment wants to make early progress on key files.

The over­all goal: to carve an early path and get the two coun­tries mov­ing on trade pri­or­i­ties.

Both sides an­nounced last March they would pro­ceed with cus­toms pre­clear­ance ini­tia­tives aimed at mak­ing bor­der pro­cess­ing eas­ier for low-risk trav­ellers. Canada is keen to come away from Mon­day’s visit with con­fir­ma­tion of those plans.

The pre­clear­ance ar­range­ments would in­crease the Amer­i­can cus­toms pres­ence on Cana­dian soil and are ex­pected to see Canada even­tu­ally es­tab­lish sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions in the United States.

Cur­rently, pas­sen­gers fly­ing to Amer­i­can cities through eight ma­jor Cana­dian air­ports can be pre­cleared there by U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers.

Pre­clear­ance would be ex­panded to Billy Bishop Toronto City Air­port and Que­bec City’s Jean Lesage In­ter­na­tional Air­port, as well as for rail ser­vice in Mon­treal and Van­cou­ver.

For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land said that dur­ing her re­cent meet­ings in Washington she stressed mak­ing trade eas­ier with Canada, in­clud­ing ex­tend­ing pre­clear­ance for prod­uct ship­ments.

“Our con­ver­sa­tions fo­cused on ways to make that bor­der thin­ner,” she said. “We talked about pre­clear­ance for cargo as an area that we might want to be work­ing on, go­ing for­ward.”

Scott Reid, a former of­fi­cial who worked in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice of Paul Martin, called such a strat­egy un­sur­pris­ing and log­i­cal. The last thing Canada wants is its fun­da­men­tal for­eign re­la­tion­ship vul­ner­a­ble to the im­pro­vised whims of a uniquely un­pre­dictable pres­i­dent.

“There’s no ques­tion that the less pre­dictable the per­sonal re­la­tion­ship will be — be­cause the pres­i­dent is new and, frankly, un­like any other pres­i­dent who’s ever held the of­fice — then by def­i­ni­tion your ob­vi­ous pro­tec­tion against all of that, your pro­tec­tion against caprice, is process,” Reid said.

“It’s process that’s mov­ing. And that’s got its own mo­men­tum. So that you sit down and say, ‘Well, we’ve got the tracks laid down here to help move along on three is­sues.’

“You want to cre­ate a mo­men­tum that builds and sus­tains it­self, al­most.”

SEAN KILPATRICK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau takes part in a town-hall meet­ing in Yel­lowknife, North­west Ter­ri­to­ries Fri­day. He meets with Pres­i­dent Trump on Mon­day.

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