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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Peter F. Romero
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Remarks on Occasion of the Second Meeting of the Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum
Vancouver, British Colombia, June 23, 2000

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Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking Neil Howard for his kind introduction, and the Canadian Club for organizing this luncheon. It's great to be in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities not only in Canada but in the world. The previous meeting of the Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum was held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we had snow in April. As a native Floridian, I made George promise me warmer weather this time around, and he has delivered.

I also want to thank all of you who participated in this morning's sessions. The Canada-U.S. Partnership Forum is designed to take an integrated approach to cross-border issues -- customs and commerce, transportation and the environment, immigration and law enforcement. And here along the I-5 corridor, you are doing a lot of forward thinking about how to accommodate these different, often competing interests.

You have shown us that in many ways the Cascadia region is a model for cross-border cooperation, for innovative ways of looking at the border. This is one of the fastest-growing areas of North America, with emerging U.S.-Canada business partnerships in information technology, biotechnology, filmmaking, and tourism complementing the traditional resource industries of lumber, mining, and fishing. The Cascadia Project is a wonderful example of how NGOs, businesses, and government on both sides of the border can work together on strategies linking together transportation, trade, and tourism. And you appreciate perhaps more than any other region along the border the need to balance economic development with protection of the environment. We in capitals have a lot to learn from you, and we appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.

This afternoon, I'd like to give you the Washington D.C. perspective on two challenges that we are constantly balancing as we deal with the U.S.-Canada border: facilitation of cross-border movements of people and goods, and enhanced border security. First, let's look at cross-border movements of people and goods.

The U.S. and Canada enjoy, by far, the largest bilateral trading partnership in the world. Two-way trade in 1999 in goods and services totaled $447 billion, more than $1.2 billion per day. U.S. trade in goods and services with British Columbia alone has doubled in the past decade, and is now approaching $40 billion per year. Obviously we have some trade disputes which we are working hard to resolve. I know, for example, how important softwood lumber is to British Colombia, and I'm confident that at the end of the day we will resolve this dispute. The amazing thing is that, given the huge volume of trade, we have so few trade disputes, and when we do have disagreements we work through them as partners, realizing that maintaining free trade is in our common interest.

The tremendous growth in U.S.-Canada commerce in the past decade has been spurred by the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since NAFTA entered into force in 1994, merchandise trade between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico has grown by 96%, rising from $289 billion in 1993 to $570 billion in 1999. The United States trades more with our NAFTA partners than with all of Europe, more than with all of Asia. And this growth in trade has helped fuel strong, sustained economic growth in all three NAFTA countries.

NAFTA has been a tremendous boon to our economies, but we're not satisfied with just removing trade barriers in North America. Instead, the U.S. and Canada are working for establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas that will encompass the hemisphere. The FTAA will be the largest free trade zone in the world, a market exceeding $10 trillion with more than 800 million people. Canada provided strong leadership as chair of the FTAA negotiations in 1998 and 1999, and our goal is to conclude a final agreement by 2005.

This enormous growth in trade has also meant a huge increase in the number of border crossings between the U.S. and Canada, which now total over 200 million people per year. By all indications we are going to continue to see rapid growth in cross-border movement of people and goods in the years ahead, which brings me to the second of the challenges I mentioned before -- how to keep our border secure. We have charged our inspection agencies not only with expediting the 99% of cross-border traffic that is legitimate, but also with stopping the other, illegitimate 1%. We need to ensure that they have the resources and technology needed to do that job effectively.

Last December's arrest of a suspected terrorist at Port Washington and the arrest of two others along the eastern border, reminded us that our relatively open borders are vulnerable. There are many cross-border organized criminal activities in both directions that we must guard against, including narcotics trafficking, gun running, and smuggling of illegal immigrants.

Here along the Washington-B.C. border, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies have joined together since 1997 in a program called the Integrated Border Enforcement Team, or IBET. IBET is a multi-agency effort including the RCMP, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs, the U.S. Department of Justice, and several local, state, and provincial law enforcement agencies. IBET is averaging $1 million per month in seizures of illegal drugs, weapons, liquor, tobacco, and vehicles crossing the border. It has effectively disrupted smuggling rings and several criminal networks attempting to smuggle illegal migrants across the border.

IBET has been so successful that Attorney General Reno and Solicitor General MacAuley announced on June 9 that they will be using IBET as a model for law enforcement cooperation on the eastern border, creating IBETs there as well. So you see, those of us in Washington and Ottawa sometimes do learn from the good examples set out west!

I am also happy to report to you that on June 16 President Clinton signed into law a bill that significantly revises Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform Act of 1996. As most of you know, Section 110, which was scheduled for implementation in March 2001, would have required additional border inspections and created enormous backups along the U.S.-Canada border. But working together with Congressional and private sector allies, including many from the Cascadia region, the U.S. and Canadian Governments were able to craft a compromise solution that eliminates added inspections.

Instead of lengthier inspections, the new legislation requires the INS to computerize and instantly share between ports the data it already collects on entries and exits. The INS is now required to have this information upgrade in place at all airports and seaports by December 2003, at all high-traffic land border ports of entry by December 2004, and at all other ports of entry by December 2005. This will allow the INS to better track entries and exits of visitors without the border delays the original Section 110 law would have created.

The new legislation also requires the Attorney General to establish a task force that will report to Congress on how the U.S. can improve traffic flows at the border, increase public/private sector cooperation, increase interagency cooperation, and improve technology for data collection. The task force will include members from federal, state, and local agencies involved in immigration, tourism, transportation, trade, law enforcement, national security, and the environment.

Working through this task force, we have another opportunity to effect Congressional thinking about border management. But we need continued private sector engagement -- the kind of engagement that led to the revision of Section 110 -- if we are to get the additional resources needed to better handle continued growth in cross-border traffic. Despite the huge growth in trade of the past 11 years under our free trade agreements, inspection resources on our northern border have been stagnant, and that is simply unacceptable. So I encourage both Americans and Canadians to stay engaged with their respective legislatures.

In closing, I again want to thank the Canada Club for hosting this event and all of you for participating in the Canada-U.S. Partnership. This forum reflects the tremendously strong, vibrant partnership shared by the U.S. and Canada, one that will grow even stronger in the century just begun. And we hope, through the discussions we have here and elsewhere along the U.S.-Canada border, to better adapt our border to the growth that lies ahead.

[end of document]

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