By Anita Payer

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, security at international borders has become increasingly stringent; yet in today’s technology-driven society, businesses that import and export goods are looking for instant information that lets them know where their goods are in the supply chain. To address these realities, many governments around the world are working to keep up with these expectations in meaningful ways that are both safe and highly secure.

Similar to other government programs like eManifest, the Government of Canada released a joint plan with the United States Government in 2011 called Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. Here, the countries articulated a shared goal of working together via an action plan to address threats within, at, and across the U.S.-Canadian border, by seeking enhanced economic and security cooperation in four key areas:

• Early threat detection, assessment and response;

• Trade facilitation, economic growth and job creation;

• Integrated cross-border law enforcement; and

• Critical infrastructure, cybersecurity and emergency management.

This action plan is both broad and deep in how the two governments will approach these four areas, as it calls for the harmonization of traveller, cargo and baggage screening, as well as the coordination of entry and exit systems. It also requires protection from offshore food-safety, animal and plant-health risks.

FedEx Trade Networks has a long record of helping businesses overcome the obstacles associated with international trade, and believes that the free flow of goods is essential in today’s global economy. As such, the company is highly interested in what effects Beyond the Border Action Plan initiatives might have. Specifically, in this article, we are focusing on initiatives that deal directly with transportation and supply chain issues, as they may help to reduce delays at the Canada-U.S. border and encourage trade between the two nations.

These initiatives may also reduce the number of regulatory steps that importers are required to take when importing goods into either country. For example, in 2012, both nations announced the mutual recognition of their air cargo security regimes under the “cleared once, accepted twice” principle. Cargo screened on passenger aircraft is now screened only once at the point of origin, rather than being re-screened at the border or when loaded onto an aircraft in the other country (e.g., being re-screened in U.S. when destined for Canada, saving duplication of work). These initiatives have resulted in important economic and security benefits to both nations, while helping maintain the integrity of the North American supply chain. In 2013, both governments announced a new harmonized customs ceiling for low value shipments. Canada raised its limit from $1,600 to $2,500, while the United States increased its limit from US$2,000 to US$2,500, allowing for more goods of higher value to cross the border with an expedited release process.

Another initiative of relevance is the “development of a harmonized approach to inbound cargo” arriving from other countries via a joint integrated cargo security strategy (ICSS). To set the initiative in motion, both nations established a pre-clearance agreement for land, rail and marine modes, and updated an existing preclearance agreement for the air mode. This strategy aims to identify and resolve concerns as early as possible by employing risk-management principles and addressing security contraband associated with imported cargo. It outlines how both nations can reduce the duplication of efforts and processes when screening inbound cargo, and recognizes the importance of:

• Having common advance data requirements;

• Sharing advance, timely information for cargo shipments arriving in Canada or the U.S. from offshore;

• Harmonizing targeting and risk assessment methodologies; and

• Sharing examination results

The two governments hope ICSS will result in a harmonized approach for the screening of inbound cargo arriving from offshore, resulting in increased security and the expedited movement of secure cargo throughout Canada and the U.S. Additionally, the initiative should result in a reduction of inbound shipments subject to re-inspection, thereby saving time and money. An evaluation of four pilot projects that tested the viability of the ICSS is currently underway.

Customs brokerage is a large part of FedEx Trade Networks’ North American business, so it is also closely watching another Beyond the Border initiative called “Single Window,” This initiative, currently under development by CBSA, will eventually provide trade with a single point of entry for the electronic reporting of regulatory information required by both governments. Currently, in some instances, importers need to submit documentation to multiple government agencies in multiple locations to obtain permits and customs clearance. However, once the Single Window initiative is deployed, importers, or their designated customs brokers, should be able to submit all government-required documentation to a single location, which should increase efficiency, reducing time and costs for importers. Under the plan, both the United States and Canada will each have its own “single window.”

Now, nearly three years after the Beyond the Border Action Plan was introduced, important progress has been made by both nations. However, more remains to be completed to build on this vital bilateral relationship to ensure both nations’ prosperity and security. With a shared border of more than 8,800 kilometres and nearly $36.2 billion in annual two-way trade, the quick advancement of these initiatives is of vital importance to both countries as well as the relationship between the two countries.

Anita Payer is Director of Customs Brokerage with FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage (Canada), Inc.