On Wednesday, the United States and Canada signed an agreement that Congressman Brian Higgins’ office describes as, historic…declaring a shared responsibility for enhanced security and efficient access for the legitimate movement of people, goods, and services between the northern border.”
I could go on a tangent about how post-9/11 border security stymies our ability to properly create a Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion / regional economy, but harmonization of customs regulations and easing the flow of commercial and tourist traffic between the US and Canada is a good start. If we had true high-speed rail in North America, it would be completely possible for someone to live in Buffalo and commute to Rochester or Toronto. And vice-versa.
Under this “Beyond the Border” agreement, we’ll see expansion of NEXUS lanes for trusted travelers (a $50 perk that gives you a dedicated bridge in Niagara Falls and speedy inspection), Customs pre-screens at point of departure, rather than at border crossings, and what amounts to somewhat of a re-think as to how we handle cross-border cargo traffic.
Some Canadians are upset because the agreement will require the CBSA to share information about suspected terrorists with the TSA, and participate in the no-fly list we keep. Canadian screening of visitors from visa waiver countries will be more closely aligned with that of the US.
Easing the flow of traffic at the border crossings themselves may obviate the need for Peace Bridge expansion and other changes that have been debated to death in our community. It’s too early to tell whether this new agreement might lead to a renewed interest or second look at shared border management, but the Canadian border hasn’t exactly been an Administration priority in the last few years, so it’s heartening to see something change, however small.
Ultimately, though, it would make sense for Canadian and American immigration and Customs schemes to be harmonized and unified, so that entry to one is entry to both, creating a North American Schengen zone.