Canadian businesses are welcoming changes to the weighty cross-border bureaucracy, which has become increasingly burdensome as trade between Canada and the United States balloons. The automotive industry in particular chafes at the hassles because the integrated nature of the North American business means parts and components cross the border many times before a vehicle is complete.
Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters hailed Wednesday's deal, saying it could save Canadian companies as much a $30-billion a year. "It's very significant because of the volume of trade – we're looking at about $600-billion of imports and exports [yearly]" CME president Jayson Myers said.
Here are some of the details:
One window for frequent exporters
The goal is to let companies fill in one application to participate in a variety of "trusted trader" programs, which allow regular exporters to get their goods across the border more quickly. This will be monitored in a pilot project to see whether it actually expands trade. It will also give importers a single point where they will electronically submit their customs information.
Food gets in
Companies in the food business will participate in a one-year pilot program that will streamline paperwork to help move their products across the border more efficiently. Another pilot program will test whether it makes sense to cut back on the inspection of agricultural and food products that have a good record of compliance.
The Nexus program, in which regular business travellers can bypass some of the lineups at airports and land crossings, will be beefed up and expanded. It will also be opened up to Canadians and Americans who don't live in Canada or the United States. There will be more Nexus lanes at crossing points.
The two countries have set up a council to make sure regulations and standards don't block the movement of goods and services across the border. Much of the focus will be on food and agricultural products (aligning pesticide limits, for instance), motor-vehicle safety (crash-test standards), and health-care products (labelling).
It makes sense to have shipments inspected and cleared long before they reach the border, so Canada and the United States will work out regulations so their customs people can do the pre-clearance in the other country.
Show me the money
Both countries will set up an inventory of fees and charges so anyone can see what's being charged at the border, why, and how much has been collected.
Both countries have committed to improving key crossings, and will co-ordinate the work.
"Whatever can be done to move things more securely but faster, with less documentation and less paperwork, the better it is for the company and the better it is for Canada," said Lorne Janes, president of Continental Marble of Canada, a maker of moulded cultured-marble countertops based in Paradise, Nfld.
"Anything that reduces the time taken up at the border is time we can use better serving our customers," said Pierre Plamondon, chief financial officer of Exfo Electro-Optical Engineering, a Quebec City firm that makes testing equipment for telecom systems.
With a report from Bertrand Marotte