|© AFP Saul Loeb|
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched an initiative Friday aiming at improving border cooperation that would boost the free flow of trade despite tougher security.
“We agreed to a new vision for managing our shared responsibilities — not just at the border but ‘beyond the border,'” Obama said after talks with the Canadian leader in Washington.
“That means working more closely to improve border security with better screening, new technologies and information-sharing among law enforcement, as well as identifying threats early. It also means finding new ways to improve the free flow of goods and people.”
Harper said the two leaders endorsed what he calls “a North American perimeter,” saying this is “not to replace or eliminate the border but, where possible, to streamline and decongest it.”
“We share security threats that are very similar on both sides of the border,” Harper said.
A joint statement issued by the two leaders said that they “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.”
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The border plan would see greater sharing of intelligence between Ottawa and Washington and the use of biometrics to track travelers, and automating processes at the land border crossing to increase efficiency.
The announcement came days after a US official report warning that only slivers of the 6,400-kilometer (4,000-mile) frontier are adequately secured.
The statement came at the close of wide-ranging talks between the US and Canadian government leaders on subjects including trade, security and energy.
Harper said TransCanada’s proposed Keystone Pipeline to the Gulf Coast was part of the discussions, but there was no indication of Washington’s view on it.
“I think it is clear to anyone who understands this issue that the need of the United States for fossil fuels far in excess of its ability to produce such energy will be the reality for some time to come,” Harper said in response to a question on the proposal.
“And the choice that the United States faces in all of these matters is whether to increase its capacity, to accept such energy from the most secure, most stable and friendliest location it can possibly get that energy, which is Canada, or from other places that are not as secure, stable or friendly to the interests and values of the United States. “
Harper and Obama agreed in February 2009 to consider jointly researching and developing carbon capture technologies and “greening” the interconnected North American power grid, which would see high-polluting coal-fired power plants shut down and replaced with renewable energy sources.