On Wednesday, U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper released a joint declaration and action plan entitled “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness”. I thought the following excerpt, taken from the initial declaration first issued on February 4th, 2011, was a good summary:

To preserve and extend the benefits our close relationship has helped bring to Americans and Canadians alike, we intend to pursue a perimeter approach to security, working together within, at, and away from the borders of our two countries to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries. We intend to do so in partnership, and in ways that support economic competitiveness, job creation, and prosperity. (source: Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness”, 4 Feb. 2011)

The declaration is an interesting read and can be accessed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/us-canada_btb_action_plan3.pdf. Did you know that almost a million dollars of goods and services cross the border every minute? That’s well over a billion dollars a day. I love to see statistics like that; it really makes you think how important the movement of goods is to these two economies. It further talks about the sharing of information, the importance of community-driven efforts and collaboration, an integrated cargo security strategy, screening efforts, and the use of technology at ports of entry. All of which are critical to continued economic growth. In addition, the U.S. and Canadian governments established a Beyond the Border Working Group (BBWG) that would develop the overall plan and help to ensure collaboration between the two countries.

In August of this year, the Canadian government released their Summary Report of Consultations with Canadians. Excerpts from the proposal, listed in the Transportation section, include:

  • Align the different requirements for safety and hours of operation.
  • Align the different requirements for weight and dimension.
  • Revise regulations regarding in-transit shipments. If the carrier belongs to a customs supply chain security program, only high-level cargo descriptions should be required.
  • Review immigration laws and interpretations to enable a driver to move empty trailers in another jurisdiction to the pickup point of an export load to enhance efficiency.
  • Harmonize safety, environmental and regulatory standards across both countries.
  • Harmonize and streamline reporting and vessel clearance requirements between both countries.
  • Align Canadian and U.S. marine security regulations.
  • Remedy the situation regarding double scanning or no scanning of ocean containers.

Another important outcome should be the development of common standards of security relative to information technology.

In Wednesday’s declaration, U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper, emphasized the need for improved cargo security capabilities, quoted, as follows:

“We will look for ways to reduce the cost of conducting legitimate business across the border by implementing, where practicable, common practices and streamlined procedures for customs processing and regulatory compliance. We intend to work towards developing an integrated cargo security strategy that ensures compatible screening methods for goods and cargo before they depart foreign ports bound for the United States or Canada, so that once they enter the territory of either we can, together, accelerate subsequent crossings at land ports of entry between our two countries.”

This agreement will go a long way in speeding up the movement of goods across the border, not to mention the significant reduction in cost for both governments. Sounds like a win-win for all. Pilot projects are set to kick off in April 2012.

We issued a press release on Wednesday detailing how we are working with our customers and regulatory agencies to ensure our cloud-based Logistics Technology Platform addresses and supports these initiatives. Our CEO, Art Mesher, was quoted as saying “Our goal is to make our borders as safe, secure and efficient as possible. We welcome the U.S. and Canadian governments' initiatives to enhance security, while being mindful of the need to even further streamline the flow of cargo across the border. We believe that our expertise in cargo security, in the U.S. and Canada, can help make this declaration a reality and provide a ‘single-window’ solution for importers, exporters and logistics companies to comply with it.”

Some specific examples include joint engagement with key customers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on CBP's Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) initiative. ACAS is designed to provide CBP with data concerning the parties and commodities involved in shipments earlier in the shipment process. In addition, Descartes has achieved "M1" certification for advanced manifest security filings for ocean shipments inbound to the United States. With this new initiative and certification, Descartes continues to provide one of the most comprehensive suites of cloud-based cargo security solutions available to manage the flow of goods between Canada and the United States for air, ocean and truck-based shipments.

We will be holding informational web seminars for our customers and other impacted parties. To learn more and register to be notified about these and other important customs events, please visit our website and register at www.descartes.com/solutions/customs-and-regulatory-compliance.

Written by Cindy Yamamoto

 Senior Vice President, Global Logistics Product Strategy at Descartes