Smart border practices and coordinated screening can improve security: CN boss

by Canadian Shipper

The security and trade challenges of the September 11 attacks on the United States call for “smart” new Canada-United States border practices and coordinated processing of people and freight reaching North America, says Paul M. Tellier, president and chief executive officer of Canadian National.

Better intelligence gathering and more sharply focused border operations, said Tellier, would help authorities pinpoint potential dangers, for example, reallocating resources from routine border crossings of ordinary citizens and regular freight shipments to high-risk cases.

Tellier, in a speech to the Canadian Association of Railway Suppliers, said Canada and the U.S. must ensure the integrity of their shared border. But he said neither country can afford measures that would damage a trading partnership worth C$700 billion last year – the largest trading relationship in the world.

The initiatives Tellier proposed include aligning Canada/U.S. customs policies, pre-clearing people and freight that do not pose security threats, moving customs activities away from the border wherever possible; and harmonizing computer systems between Canadian and American customs.

Coordinated security for freight, he said, would, for example, entail customs processing of overseas containers destined to any point in North America at the first port of entry, regardless of whether that port was in Canada or the U.S.

Once cleared, containers would cross the international border freely, making available people and technology for security and intelligence gathering where needed most.

Tellier said this would “increase the level of security for both Canada and the United States. It would help reduce delays at land border crossing points. It would eliminate redundant inland processing and management. And our countries can do this without ceding our sovereign rights to make decisions within our respective jurisdictions.”

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