It probably won’t be news to anyone here that Maine and Canada share a strong and mutually beneficial trade relationship that continues to prosper and grow each year.
Canada is Maine’s largest trading partner; Maine exports $1.1 billion in goods alone to Canada annually, which represents 32 percent of all Maine exports worldwide. Keys to the success of this partnership are the timely and efficient movement of legitimate trade and travelers across our shared border and regulatory regimes that work well together and don’t create duplicative red tape.
On Thursday, I will join the Maine International Trade Center, businesses and government officials in Bangor to discuss two important bilateral initiatives that seek to accomplish these objectives.
With $1.4 million in goods and services exchanged every minute between Canada and the United States, it is critically important that Canada and the U.S. work together to remove unnecessary and costly impediments at the border while maintaining the highest level of security.
President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper recognize this and have made it a priority. In December 2011, they announced two joint action plans: Beyond the Border and the Regulatory Cooperation Council. Through a range of initiatives under both action plans, important progress has been made and Mainers — particularly those who do business across the border — stand to benefit.
The Beyond the Border action plan established a new long-term partnership built upon a perimeter approach to security and economic competitiveness. It enables Canada and the U.S. to work together not only at our shared border but beyond it at our perimeter to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services. It identifies four key areas of cooperation: addressing threats early; trade facilitation, economic growth and jobs; cross border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cyber-security.
Both countries have made significant progress towards meeting the action plan’s objectives. Results include additional, time-saving benefits for members of the NEXUS trusted traveller program, which has helped increase membership; a new innovative joint entry/exit program at the land border whereby the record of entry into one country is securely shared thereby enhancing the integrity of our immigration systems; a successfully implemented truck cargo pre-inspection pilot programs aimed at reducing wait times and border congestion; and the release of an Integrated Cargo Security Strategy.
In addition, the first ever cross-border pilot project to improve the security of our shared critical infrastructure was conducted on the Maine-New Brunswick border. Given that Canada and the United States share a significant quantity of critical infrastructure, including pipelines, the electric grid and transportation systems, it is imperative that our countries work together to protect them. This pilot project examined how our governments can collaborate with the private sector to achieve this.
Similarly, the joint Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council is working to reduce barriers to trade, lower costs for consumers and business and create economic opportunities on both sides of the border through increased regulatory alignment. All while ensuring that our health, safety and environmental protection standards are not compromised.
The council currently has 29 initiatives underway within the agriculture, transportation, environment, and health and personal care products sectors. The work of the council will make it easier for Maine firms and manufacturers to do business on both sides of the border at a lower cost. It is clear that these two initiatives will positively transform the future of Canada-U.S. trade to increase prosperity in both countries as we look to grow our economies and remain competitive in an ever-changing global marketplace.
My team at the Consulate General is pleased to be working with the MITC to present this program and hear from Mainers on how we can improve the all-important trade relationship that links Maine with Canada.
Pat Binns is consul general of Canada to New England.