Harper and Obama to meet on Beyond the Border deal

Businesses say the agreement is desperately needed to combat a continually thickening border, while opposition parties and Canada’s privacy commissioner have expressed concerns about its potential to infringe on the privacy rights of Canadians.

The meeting will also give Harper an opportunity to continue the discussion on Canada’s interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade group that the United States is already a part of. Many observers feel the TPP could surpass the North American Free Trade Agreement in its importance to the economy.

For months, the US and Canada have been hoping to finalize the Beyond the Border agreement – a trade and security initiative constructed to streamline cross border trading and better coordinate intelligence sharing at the boarder.

Originally slated to be in motion by last summer, scheduling conflicts delayed the ceremony. The deal is expected to be formally announced on Wednesday following the meeting.

On Friday at an event in Burlington, Harper told reporters: “We’re seeking ways of ensuring security in North America while at the same time, making sure that we continue strong Canadian access to the American market. Even with all the problems that exist in the United States, this remains essential to our well-being and our future prosperity. There has been a lot of hours in a lot of levels of government and I look forward to discussing this particular project and a number of others when I meet President Obama in Washington next week.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney spoke at a briefing in Washington on Friday, noting that President Obama considers Canada “a close ally and partner of the United States. The president looks forward to discussing our important bilateral relationship, including economic competitiveness and security, and key global issues.”

The agreement is said to take on such issues as addressing threats early; integrated cross border law enforcement; trade facilitation, economic growth, and jobs; and critical infrastructure and cyber-security.

It is expected to include an entry-exit system that will allow the United States to monitor those entering and leaving Canada, which will reportedly cut down on traffic at the border and streamline regulations in the food and automotive sectors.

The Canadian government is said to see the agreement largely from a trade perspective – increasing smooth passage of the $1.5 billion in annual trade that crosses the border each day, while the American government views it as a way to ensure security at the border.

Sources: vancouversun.com, canada.com