Obama, Harper eye new security plan to ease trade

Fri Feb 4, 2011 6:29pm EST
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By Doug Palmer and Louise Egan

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed on Friday to a new approach to U.S. and Canadian security that they said would help boost trade by reducing logjams at the border.

"Today we've agreed to several important steps to increase trade, improve our competitiveness and create jobs for both our peoples," Obama said at a joint press conference in Washington.

"The United States and Canada are not simply allies, not simply neighbors. We are woven together like perhaps no other two countries in the world," Obama said.

Harper told reporters the two countries would work together "in the context of a North American security perimeter" to fight terrorism and other threats.

"We're not talking about eliminating the border but rather simplifying, wherever possible, the management of the border as well as the free flow of people and goods across that border," Harper said.

The United States and Canada are each other's biggest trading partners, with about $1.5 billion in goods and services and 300,000 travelers crossing the border each day.

Much of the trade is between companies producing a final manufactured product.

Business groups in both countries have long been concerned about the "thickening" of the 5,525-mile (8,900-km) U.S.-Canadian border due to security measures enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.   Continued...

<p>U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attend a joint news conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>