Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, with billions of dollars in goods crossing the border annually. Last year, the United States and Canada agreed to implement the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which is intended to expedite trade between the two countries while enhancing border security.
As noted in a recent piece posted on the Government Security News website, Canada recently took a significant step in this regard by expanding its trusted travelers’ expedited border crossing pilot (Free and Secure Trade or FAST) program to a third crossing in Ontario. Under FAST, participants that are either in Canada’s Partners in Protection (PIP) or Customs Self Assessment (CSA) program to have expedited border crossings. Previously, expedited service was available only to carriers and shippers who were participants in both programs. Now, the program is more in alignment with America’s trusted trader programs: C-TPAT and ISA.
While this is a solid step in the right direction, significant work remains to meet the goals of Beyond the Border. A recent article in Canada’s Financial Post, “Will the new Can-Am border agreement be a supply-chain headache?”, lays out several concerns. For example, much effort must be expended to harmonize the two countries’ regulatory schemes for trade. As pointed out by Joy Nott, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters,
[i]f we all live another 300 years, I suppose all regulations would end up being harmonized. In the interim, it’s still the biggest hurdle to business, irrespective of the sector. And no sector is exempt from this.
Until that time, as pointed out in the Financial Post article, traders will need to be well-versed in the trade requirements of both the US and Canada. Ruth Snowden, executive director of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, stated:
Traders will have to have both types of in-house expertise, as well as develop processes and systems to ensure compliance. That’s getting increasingly difficult because it’s expensive to build the systems, relationships and third-party connectivity needed.
Nevertheless, in addition to the Ontario border crossing pilot, there are glimmers of progress . For instance, as reported on this blog, CBP just increased the the dollar value of goods that would qualify for “informal entry” processing to $2,500, in a move to harmonize the values for the US and Canada in line with the Beyond the Border initiative.