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Jointly defended border key to Canada-U.S. trade: study

August 20, 2007

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By: Stuart Colcleugh

Reaching shared border security and defence agreements with the U.S. is the best way for Canada to maintain an open border and safeguard trade with the Americans, according to a recent Fraser Institute study by SFU political scientist Alexander Moens.

“Recent trade disputes such as softwood lumber and the so-called mad cow disease were allowed to fester and drag on primarily because Canada had no political capital with the White House that it could call on to help diffuse the disputes,” writes Moens, a senior fellow with the conservative think tank.

The report, Canadian American Relations in 2007, looks at the recent history of Canada-U.S. relations and trade disputes. It concludes that changes in governments on both sides of the border offer an opportunity to revive the bilateral relationship and co-operation that has traditionally existed between the two countries.

“The Conservative government elected in 2006 has moved to improve political relations with the United States and President George W. Bush,” says Moens, adding that “a window of opportunity has opened for a new deal with Canada.”

The report recommends a bilateral border-security treaty that includes:
•    A customs union to remove trade restraints.
•    A joint security-perimeter and border-management strategy to pre-clear all commercial crossings and harmonize biometric checks on people.
•    Harmonized visa, refugee and immigration-processing systems.
•    A bi-national border command to deal with crime, smuggling and terrorist threats.
•    Enhanced cross-border labour mobility.

The report also recommends negotiating a mutual defence treaty that includes:
•    A single North American defence arrangement based on building out the NORAD model.
•    A combined air, space, sea and land command structure reporting directly to U.S. and Canadian decision makers.
•    A strategic plan for a joint response to any threat to North America.
•    Greater Canadian investment in defence capacity in all areas, including Arctic security.
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