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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a joint news conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, Feb. 4, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters/Jim Young/Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks next to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a joint news conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, Feb. 4, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters/Jim Young/Reuters)

Canada-U.S. perimeter security pact will cost $1-billion Add to ...

A perimeter security deal between Canada and the United States will come with a $1-billion price tag for new border facilities and programs to make trade and travel easier.

The Conservative government will use money cut from existing programs to cover the cost of the international pact – an attempt to protect the continent from terrorist threats while speeding the flow of people and products.

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Several sources said the deal falls short of the grand vision outlined eight months ago when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced negotiations.

“It's very incremental, it not big and visionary,” said a source with detailed knowledge of the deal.

Sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the pact ahead of its public release this month.

The Beyond the Border action plan will include some three dozen items the governments plan to pursue together. Some could be in place within months, and others would take four or five years.

Mr. Harper has placed strong emphasis on “the things that can be done quickly” rather than a broad, sweeping agreement that addresses every possible border issue, said one person who was briefed on the plans.

“I don't there there's going to be one big headline item,” said another source.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, both countries have been bedevilled by the challenges of shielding the continent from another assault without impeding the flow of trade across the vast border, valued at $1.6-billion a day.

According to those familiar with the negotiations, the deal will introduce measures to improve communications on customs and security issues and streamline procedures. A common set of customs requirements is being viewed as a big step forward.

Other measures include:

— A “one-stop shopping” window for importers who now have to deal with up to half a dozen government agencies;

— Less paperwork for companies that don't bother seeking duty-free treatment for shipments because of the hassle;

— Special visas for certain business travellers and more emphasis on frequent-traveller and trusted-shipper programs;

— Detailed benchmarks that will bring each country's food and auto industries in line;

— Synchronized planning at land border crossings, where there is now little international co-ordination.

Canada will have to make potentially expensive investments in screening and security technologies to keep pace with the Americans.

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