Canada, U.S. must unclog border: business groups

Wed Feb 20, 2008 1:27pm EST
 
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada and the United States must take steps now to unclog their border for exporters, who are hurting from costly delays and fees due to post-2001 security concerns, business leaders said on Wednesday.

A joint report on reducing border costs by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce laid out 17 recommendations for both governments to deliver over the next 18 months.

Canada-U.S. trade is worth about $1.5 billion a day -- the world's largest bilateral trading relationship.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide attacks on the United States, shippers on both sides of the border have been subject to a growing number of inspections and fees. These "risk becoming an unmanageable burden," according to the report, especially as the North American economy slows in the wake of the U.S. subprime mortgage meltdown.

Canadian manufacturers are already smarting from a sharp appreciation of their dollar against the U.S. dollar and a drop in demand from the crucial U.S. market.

"We're in an economic environment in Canada today where we've got to have a really good hard look as to what's helping and what's hampering our ability to compete as an economy," Michael Murphy, executive vice-president of policy for the Canadian chamber, told reporters.

"The border is one area where you can actually do some good and help bring relief ... It's one of the two or three most important things that I think government can address," he said.

Steps Ottawa and Washington should take range from simple ones such as committing more money to ensure round-the-clock staffing for border booths to more complex ones such as mutual recognition of each country's "trusted shipper" programs, which allow businesses to obtain certification in the aim of reducing border inspections.   Continued...

 
<p>A U.S Customs Officer checks the identification papers of a driver entering the U.S. from Canada at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel in Detroit, January 31, 2008. Canada and the United States must take steps now to unclog their border for exporters, who are hurting from costly delays and fees due to post-2001 security concerns, business leaders said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook</p>