David Jacobson, the US Ambassador to Canada, spoke to the Globe and Mail editorial board Friday about the continental security perimeter, the benefits and challenges for Canada and the U.S.
Q: What does the plan accomplish?
I think that there has been kind of a breakthrough in our thinking over the last year or so. Up until then there was this view that either we were going to have a secure border or we were going to have an efficient border. We were going to have more trade [or]we were going to have more security. But those things are not inconsistent in any way. We were going to do fewer of the stupid things that we have been doing and more of the smart things. And that we would try to move as many of the decisions as far away from the border as we possibly could. The border being the worst possible place that you can make decisions about anything. It is a bottleneck, there is no recourse, there is a guy standing there who says you didn’t bring the right piece of paper.
Q: How can things be simplified?
The way to do that is to share information. To get information about people and about goods before they get to the border, so that you can make those decisions in a more rational way, I think really underlies a lot of this. The leaders and their relationship and the people of our two countries are such that the stars were in alignment.
You guys probably have a better sense of what the public thinks here in Canada than I do, but I have been pleased at the response so far. I think it has been generally positive. A lot the reservations that have been expressed are based upon inaccurate understandings of the deal. I think this was an important thing in our relationship, and the test now is whether we are going to live up to the plan that we put forward. Everybody ought to hold our feet to the fire. This is just a plan, and if we don’t execute on it nothing is going to change. It is going to take months before any of these things are apparent, and it will takes perhaps a couple of years before some of them are.
Q: The perception is that the U.S. got a big win with the entry/exit agreement. What is the gain for Canada?
That is not how this works. This is not, we got this and we got that. That really misconstrues what is happening. We both got more trade, and this is something that is very very important. You heard the president talking about trade and jobs and doubling exports in five years, and we aren’t going to do that unless we start with Canada, something I have been saying for quite some time. This is going to make this more possible. Both of are going to benefit from enhanced security, and the way that we are going to get to more trade is to have this enhanced, more efficient security at the border.
Q: What about exit visas?
The reason that it is important to get the exit information, is for a whole variety of reasons that are important to Canada or to the United States. If someone has a six-month visa to come from some country into Canada, and they got to Canada in 2009, and they didn’t leave Canada until 2011, well they have overstayed the visa, and so maybe the next time they apply for a visa that may be something that you might want to know. Or you have applied to become a permanent resident, and you’ve got a commitment that you stay in the country for a certain period of time. Well if you leave the country, that’s something that the Canadian officials would want to know. The same is true on my side. This is a big win for both of us.
Q: Are there additional exit databases attached to that exit visa? Criminal records, immigration files?
Any information that you would get on an exit visa, you’ve already got when the person entered the country. So all you are finding out is the fact that they left. There is no additional personal information, other than the fact that they left the country on a given day.
Q: The regulation co-operation plan sets a later schedule. Is that because it will be much more difficult to put in place?
I think it speaks in large measure to the regulatory processes, which are technical, and notices have to be published, and comment has to be gotten in both countries. I think it has more to do with that. I think that, to your point about co-ordination and alignment, I think everybody was struggling for the right word here because we were all sensitive to the notion of sovereignty, and the idea that we were going to co-ordinate... We didn’t want to raise any red flags.