Peter F. Romero
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Remarks on the Occasion of the First Meeting of the
Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum
Buffalo, New York, April 12, 2000
Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking Brad Mazone and all our gracious hosts for this event -- the Buffalo Council on World Affairs, the Niagara International Trade Council, the Council for International Visitors, the Canada-U.S. Business Association, and the Canada-U.S. BorderNet Alliance. We thank you for the work that your groups are doing to enhance cross-border cooperation between our two great countries, particularly in the area of trade. And I thank you for being given the opportunity to address your members, who I believe have a special appreciation for the work that our two governments are undertaking in the Canada-U.S. Partnership.
The Canada-U.S. Partnership, or CUSP, is a new, proactive bilateral initiative that was launched during President Clinton's visit to Ottawa last October. At that time, the President and Prime Minister Chretien reaffirmed the following guiding principles for Canada-U.S. border cooperation:
CUSP is part of our efforts to implement these principles. Under CUSP, we are consulting with leaders in border communities on building a better border for the 21st century. And George Haynal and I could think of no more appropriate place to launch this process than the Buffalo-Niagara region, one of the most vibrant of all our cross-border communities.
- Streamline, harmonize, and collaborate on border policies and management;
- Expand cooperation to increase efficiencies in customs, immigration, law enforcement, and environmental protection at and beyond the border; and
- Collaborate on common threats from outside Canada and the U.S.
All too often, Americans forget how blessed we are to have Canada as our neighbor. We tend to focus more on domestic issues than on international issues, and when we do look beyond our borders it tends to be to crisis-driven, i.e. the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Colombia, East Timor, etc. But just think how much the United States and Canada have in common: our commitment to democratic values both at home and abroad, our unparalleled cooperation in the areas of trade and security (resulting in over $1 billion a day in two-way trade between our two countries), our partnership in environmental protection, and the family and professional ties between millions of our citizens. Simply put, we depend on each other, and that mutual dependence continues to grow in the 21st century.
In the conduct of our foreign affairs, we have recognized Canada's geographic and cultural proximity to us. Last year, for example, the Department of State took its Office of Canadian Affairs out of the European Bureau and placed it in the new Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. In so doing, we sought to acknowledge the tremendous growth in Canada's involvement with and influence in the hemisphere in recent years. Furthermore, given our experience with Mexico in managing a long and peaceful border and fostering productive trade relations, it seems entirely appropriate to address Canada as a neighbor as well.
CUSP is designed to focus our attention squarely on the U.S.-Canada relationship, on how we can make this partnership even more beneficial for citizens of both countries. We enjoy, by far, the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world. Combine the figure of $1 billion a day with more than 200 million people crossing the border each year, and you can see why we have every incentive to make the border operate as smoothly as possible.
Under the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement, our two-way merchandise trade with Canada has risen from $159 billion in 1989 to $370 billion in 1999. Ambassador Giffin and our U.S. Ambassador to Mexico visited several U.S. cities last month to promote export opportunities for U.S. companies under NAFTA, and I know that they met with an enthusiastic response. We will continue to promote increased trade under NAFTA, which has had such a positive impact on the economies of all three countries, and we are taking our efforts further still. The U.S. and Canada are working to establish a hemisphere-wide Free Trade Area of the Americas, which will expand our countries' trade opportunities throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. The Canadian Government provided tremendous leadership to this process as chair of the FTAA in 1998 and 1999, and in hosting the FTAA Trade Ministerial in Toronto last November.
Reducing trade barriers is good for our economies, but it creates real strains for inspection agencies and for roads, bridges, and ports. We know that in order to take advantage of trade opportunities, we have to improve our infrastructure and our efficiency at the border. At the same time, both countries have law enforcement needs at the border that must be met to ensure the security of our citizens.
In order to address these competing needs, CUSP is bringing together officials from our customs, immigration, transportation, and law enforcement agencies. These agencies are already doing important work together in a number of binational groups, such as the Shared Border Accord between our customs and immigration agencies, the Cross-Border Crime Forum between our justice departments, and the Border Vision group between our immigration and consular officials. CUSP is not designed to get into operational details of these issues as the existing binational groups are doing, but to bring all of them together to take a big picture look at the border. We want to think in an integrated way about what the border will be like in 10 years time, and about how we get there from here.
That is where you come in. You live and work on the border, and you understand the border better than those of us who live and work in Washington or Ottawa do. The U.S. Government and the Canadian Government are committed to making the border work better, but we need your input, the benefit of your first-hand experience. We met yesterday in Niagara-on-the-Lake with a number of stakeholders from both sides of the border, and I think it is fair to say we had a very useful exchange of ideas. These stakeholders included representatives of companies that depend upon timely cross-border deliveries, the transportation and tourism sectors, and academic institutions that focus on cross-border cooperation. This morning we had breakfast with a number of elected officials from this region, and we toured the passenger and cargo processing operations at the Lewiston Bridge border crossing. We have gotten a better sense of some of the challenges facing the Buffalo-Niagara area, and we look forward to learning more from our discussions with you this afternoon.
But we don't see this as a one-shot deal. Instead, we see this as the start of a dialogue between capitals and local leaders all along the border, which we hope will bring our countries even closer together. Our next stop will be Vancouver, where we look forward to getting West Coast perspectives on cross-border cooperation. Through hearing a variety of regional perspectives and a variety of institutional perspectives, we hope to get a better sense of what our goals should be for the border, and how we can best work together to achieve them.
Once again, I want to thank our hosts and to thank all of you for being part of the Canada-U.S. Partnership. We are excited about this process, and I look forward to working with all of you.
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