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Commissioner Kerlikowske’s Remarks at the US/Canada Border Conference

Release Date: 
October 27, 2015

The State of and Priorities for the Border: CBP Perspective
Remarks as prepared for October 27, 2015

I’m delighted to join you all here in Detroit for this important conference. It is fitting to meet here, of course, since Detroit is the largest American city on the U.S.-Canadian border. And, as the birthplace of such business visionaries and adventurous go-getters as Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, aviator Charles Lindbergh, and Henry Ford – Detroit is an appropriate place to talk about the future and how to get there.

I know that Deputy Secretary Mayorkas covered a lot of ground here earlier, so I will try to limit my remarks in order to leave time for what I hope will be a robust dialogue with attendees.

The United States and Canada share the longest international border in the world, stretching more than 5,500 miles.

But we share much more than a border.

Nearly 110 million people travel back and forth between the United States and Canada every year. Therefore, our two governments share a deep commitment to identifying threats and high-risk people and goods while expediting the movement of lawful travel and commerce.

We cooperate in numerous multinational forums to combat terrorism, money-laundering, drug smuggling, and other threats. And our defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country.

The high volume of our bilateral trade – to the tune of nearly $2 billion per day in goods – is also an economic “tie that binds.”

Canada and the United States also have one of the world’s largest investment relationships. The U.S. is Canada’s largest foreign investor, and Canada is the fifth-largest foreign investor in the United States. So it’s imperative that we continue strengthening our partnerships on multiple levels – enforcement and economic.

As Deputy Secretary Mayorkas noted, the Beyond the Border initiative truly is a paradigm shift in the U.S.-Canada relationship and how we manage borders.

Besides achieving mutual recognition of our trusted trader programs, our other Beyond the Border achievements during the past 4 years include:

  • Implementation of an entry/exit system at all common land ports of entry for all third country nationals;
  • Achievement of mutual recognition of our respective air cargo security programs;
  • Automated sharing of biographic and biometric visa and immigration information;
  • Development and testing of an Integrated Cargo Security Strategy; and
  • Deployment of integrated cross-border maritime law enforcement teams.

The United States also cooperates extensively with Canada on bilateral law enforcement matters. We work together closely to assess shared threats jointly, leveraging existing partnerships between our governments’ agencies. This collaboration has become even more critical in light of the evolving security threats, including the emergence of foreign fighters. U.S. and Canadian law enforcement work together through the Cross-Border Crime Forum and other initiatives.

CBP works with its Canadian counterparts in 24 locations along the border, including four locations where Canadian and American intelligence analysts are co-located. For example, the Border Enforcement Security Task Force incorporates personnel from numerous U.S. and Canadian agencies.

We will continue to work with Canada to stem the flow of narcotics across our shared border, and to prevent access to precursor chemicals and lab equipment for criminal use. All of these efforts are critically important to the safety and security of our citizens, as well as our law enforcement personnel working on both sides of the border. 

As recently demonstrated by vicious attacks – targeting uniformed officers in places like New York, Texas, and Illinois, and in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa last year – the risk is very real and the need for close collaboration between partners is imperative.

As part of a broad cooperation agreement in place between CBP and CBSA, our agencies continue to refine and improve operational information sharing. This ongoing collaboration supports enhanced mitigation of emerging border threats. We’re moving beyond the simple exchange of information toward a more integrated targeting and risk analysis approach. And we’re committed to leveraging common methodologies in the areas of risk assessment and data analytics to protect against threats across all modes.

But we can and will do even more. We remain committed to completing the U.S. “Single Window” – the foundation of which is CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, system. ACE replaces the outdated, redundant, paper-laden processes that have existed across the government, and is the major development in how our trade stakeholders interact with the U.S. government.

Thanks to the hard work of our industry partners as well as numerous agencies across the U.S. government, we’re on track to deliver the Single Window by President Obama’s December 2016 goal. 

As the various federal agencies in the United States work to share information and streamline decision making at the border, our countries must also cooperate to achieve streamlined efficiencies and eliminate redundancies. We must share information early and often to make crossing the border for people and cargo a more seamless experience.

For example, our Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) streamlines and enhances federal efforts to address import safety issues. The CTAC combines the resources and manpower of CBP and partner government agencies to protect the American public from unsafe imported products. Robust communications, information sharing, and reducing redundancies in the inspection process keep cargo moving while securing the border.

On July 21, CBP concluded a week-long “table-top” exercise on handling import safety issues through a multi-agency collaboration with Canada. The CTAC, along with Canada Border Services Agency, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Health Canada teamed up on exercises that helped each country understand how the other would respond, exchanging ideas and developing best practices together. The exercise gave each participating agency a chance to present potential scenarios of import safety events that would have hazardous effects on the public. Each agency provided feedback to their respective counterparts, and those recommendations will be used to better protect U.S. and Canadian consumers.

We’re also committed to completing the deployment of explosive detection systems at all preclearance airports, and identifying alternate ways to enhance our law enforcement collaboration.

And together the United States and Canada are investing in improved shared border infrastructure and technology to ensure the most efficient cross-border trade and travel. In February, for example, Canada and the United States released a significantly expanded second joint Border Infrastructure Investment Plan that details major improvements at the top 25 commercial and passenger crossings.

As many of you know, Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge is the single busiest border crossing in North America, carrying nearly 30 percent of the total trade between the United States and Canada. As trade volumes continue to grow and place pressure on existing infrastructure, the new Gordie Howe International Bridge between Detroit and Windsor will be a boon to our respective economies.

So, what’s next?

Our governments have taken the first steps to reimagine and reinvent our border with Canada in the context of trade flows and the flows of people. Of course, there is still more work to be done.

We’ve identified and agreed upon new initiatives that both countries can undertake to further advance the vision outlined by the President and the Prime Minister.  

These new initiatives include items related to addressing threats early, facilitating legitimate trade and travel, and strengthening cross-border collaboration. Pushing out our borders – by addressing risks at the earliest opportunity – requires advance information about people and products and analytical tools that enable us to “segment risk.”  

There is also more we can do trilaterally.

Already, the governments of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are taking the first steps toward greater trilateral collaboration. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resolved many long-standing bilateral issues, and it charted a new course in reducing trade barriers among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. And as for travel, as mentioned earlier, the creation of a North American Trusted Traveler Network will make it easier for eligible travelers in all three countries to apply for expedited screening.

In closing, I am gratified by the tremendous progress we have made together on so many cross-border issues, to the benefit of travel and trade stakeholders. Government – good government – must closely and candidly engage with the private sector. This engagement is critical to achieving our mutual goals of seamless security and economic growth for the entire North American continent. Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.

Last modified: 
February 8, 2017