Canada and U.S. to press ahead with border clampdown

Thu May 26, 2011 4:46pm EDT
 
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DEAUVILLE, France (Reuters) - Canada and the United States, who have the world's largest bilateral trade relationship, agreed on Thursday to press ahead with a plan to boost security along their long shared border, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.

Although the two governments say forging a common security perimeter will increase trade flows, critics in Canada say the move means too much sensitive personal information on Canadians could end up in the hands of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Businesses complain the increased security measures the United States put in place after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 are creating logjams along the 5,525-mile (8,900-km) border. Canada sends around 70 percent of all its exports to the United States.

Harper, who met U.S. President Barack Obama at a summit in France, said the two men were "committed to pursuing a perimeter approach to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services."

He added: "We expect to have an ambitious joint action plan ready this summer following public consultations."

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.

A statement from Obama after the meeting said "these efforts are focused on strengthening U.S. and Canadian security and competitiveness" but did not give any more details.

The two sides say they will be focusing on areas like improved screening and increased data-sharing among law enforcement officials. Canada is particularly sensitive to allegations by U.S. lawmakers that the border is a security risk because Canadian anti-terrorism laws are, they say, too lax.

Canadian opposition legislators say there is a risk their immigration and refugee policies could be subordinated to those of the United States, which has a population around 10 times larger than that of Canada.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Alastair Macdonald)