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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Canada and U.S. make declaration on a ‘Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness’

(16 February 2011)

On 4 February 2011, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, and the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, issued a joint declaration entitled ‘Beyond the Border: Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.’ The declaration is aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two countries over a long-term basis, through efforts to accelerate the flow of people across their international boundary, while strengthening economic ties and security, through ‘effective risk management’. The program sets out four key areas of cooperation, which include: Addressing Threats Early; Trade Facilitation, Economic Growth, and Jobs; Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement; and Critical Infrastructure and Cybersecurity. A press release from the White House stated:

“To preserve and extend the benefits our close relationship has helped bring to Americans and Canadians alike, we intend to pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries.”

Prime Minister Harper also stated that the two countries are committed “to expanding our management of the border to the concept of a North American perimeter, not to replace or eliminate the border, but where possible to streamline and decongest it.”

It is proposed that the key area of ‘Addressing Threats Early’ will be achieved through improved intelligence and information sharing, as well as joint threat assessments. Further, it is proposed that an integrated United States-Canada entry-exit system will be developed to promote mobility between the two countries. Regarding the key area of ‘Integrated Cross-border Law Enforcement’, the two countries intend to further develop existing bilateral law enforcement programs in order to create integrated cross-border law enforcement operations. Within the declaration, the two leaders stated that the program would be implemented through the formation of a Beyond the Border Working Group (BBWG), which will be composed of “representatives from the appropriate departments and offices of our respective federal governments.” A joint Plan of Action will be developed in the following months, and representatives within the BBWG will be expected to report annually for the next three years.

Critics suggest that the new program is largely an extenuation of the 2005 Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) that had also included Mexico. Little is known as to why the SPP was abandoned after meetings between the three nations’ leaders in 2009. The new declaration also builds upon existing trade agreements, including the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes Mexico, implemented in 1994. Concerns have arisen over the lack of transparency and citizen input into the new declaration, a similar concern voiced regarding the SPP. Issues of sovereignty have also been raised, questioning the impact of developing a joint perimeter security program, that some believe will be dominated by U.S. interests and an expanding reach of the Department of Homeland Security. Prime Minister Harper was quick to address these concerns, stating that the declaration was not about sovereignty, and that both countries would be able to continue operating independently. Opposition parties in Canada also pointed to the high level of secrecy in which the declaration was developed, and the fact that it was not put to a vote before parliament.

It is estimated that US$1 million in goods and services cross the international border between Canada and the U.S. every minute, with around 300,000 persons crossing daily.

Source: ‘Declaration by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper of Canada - Beyond the Border’, White House Press Releases and Documents, 4 February 2011; ‘PM speaks on the shared vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness between Canada and the United States’, State News Service, 4 February 2011; ‘Border deal 'not about sovereignty,' PM says; Harper, Obama strike agreement on security perimeter’, Les Whittington, Toronto Star, 5 February 2011.