Archive for June, 2009

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The following article, by Jeffrey Simpson, is extracted from the 20 June 2009 edition of “globeandmail.com”.

Could it be that after so many delays, false starts, political wrangling, engineering studies, competing proposals and plain old-fashioned inertia, a new bridge might soon be under construction between Windsor and Detroit, the busiest border crossing in North America?

Yes, there actually could be a new bridge, believe it or not.

With this project – an estimated $2-billion for the bridge, and more for the access roads on both sides of the border – nothing is ever guaranteed until the final rivet is in place. But on the Canadian side, all the political ducks are finally in line; and on the U.S. side, almost all of them are.

Except that in the U.S., a nation of lawyers, nothing is ever finally settled until the last lawsuit has expired&hellip.

The bridge is owned by one of the wealthiest men in the United States, billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun of Grosse Pointe. He owns a trucking conglomerate, dispenses political contributions (to 21 candidates in 2008, according to Campaignmoney.com), and keeps lawyers busy by filing lawsuits whenever matters are not going his way.

Which they are not. Mr. Moroun opposes the new bridge proposed by the U.S. and Canadian governments. He insists it will unfairly compete with his Ambassador Bridge, and the new bridge he will build, operate and own adjacent to the existing Ambassador that will eventually be phased out&hellip.

Alas for Mr. Moroun, the Department of Homeland Security does not favour his project, fearing terrorists could knock out one bridge, thereby crippling commerce among other losses. Nor does the U.S. Coast Guard favour Mr. Moroun’s efforts. It recently ordered preliminary work stopped on his new bridge. Nor does the Democratic delegation in Congress from Michigan, with one exception.

Nor does the mayor of Detroit. Nor does the state government&hellip.

Mr. Moroun has just launched a lawsuit, claiming the U.S. government agencies had not followed their own rules in turning him down.

Unless this Hail Mary lawsuit succeeds – and very few people give it a hope – work will start later this year on the Windsor side preparing ground for the access from the 401 highway to the new six-lane bridge&hellip.

Many Windsorites wanted a tunnel from the 401 to the bridge, but the cost would have been astronomical. Now, it appears Mayor Francis and Queen’s Park have reached an agreement whereby some of the access road will be sunken, although not tunnelled. With that compromise, the last hurdle fell on the Canadian side for a new bridge so long discussed, so long delayed.

The federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, and the federal, state and local governments on the U.S. side would appear all in agreement, finally, that a new bridge is needed and that it should be the publicly financed one. The Canadian section will likely be built through a public-private partnership&hellip.

It almost seems too good to be true: a new bridge by 2015. Hold your breath.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

The following is excerpted from today’s news release by DFAIT.

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Viktor Zubkov, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, today concluded the Seventh Session of the Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission (IEC) in Moscow, where they signed a joint statement on a range of commercial initiatives.

“During our meetings, we held fruitful discussions on a number of files ranging from mining and agriculture, to energy issues and trade challenges,” said Minister Day. We also discussed Canada’s concerns with the current Russian ban on Canadian pork. “Russia represents a large and growing market with enormous potential for Canadian companies. Canadian exports to Russia grew 30 percent in 2008 and have grown almost 700 percent since 2000. Progress made here today will help us open more doors for Canadian businesses in this important market.”

In the joint statement, Canada and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to facilitating economic activity by establishing and maintaining a favourable environment for trade and investment within a free market conforming to internationally accepted rules and regulations.

Minister Day also made progress on science and technology cooperation with Russia during his meetings. Canada and Russia are working to strengthen long-term economic ties through enhanced cooperation in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

The Canada-Russia IEC was created in 1993 as a government-to-government mechanism to address issues affecting bilateral trade.

Russia was Canada’s 18th largest merchandise export market in 2008. Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service is continuing to advance Canadian trade, investor and innovation interests in Russia in order to open doors for Canadian business there which translate into jobs back home.

Friday, June 12th, 2009

The following is excerpted from today’s edition of “National Post”.

Just days after a passport requirement for Canadians crossing U.S. land borders took effect, the United States is preparing to dispatch 700 more agents to patrol its northern border, the Ottawa Citizen has learned.

The move, confirmed Thursday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, represents a 45% “plus-up” over current staffing of 1,550 agents. It will bring the total number of northern U.S. border agents to about 2,200 by September, 2010, more than a sixfold increase since 9/11.

Much of the additional manpower is needed to operate new border monitoring equipment and to run down investigative leads and other information generated by the new technologies, said a CBP spokesman in Washington….

The technologies include radiation detectors, hidden ground sensors, security cameras and air and marine units, including Predator unmanned patrol planes monitoring remote border regions for potential terrorists and other criminals heading south across the almost 9,000-kilometre boundary.

“We can’t just put the technology in without having the people to go out there and actually move around and make arrests and investigate suspicious activity as needed,” said Easterling. “So we need to make sure that we plus-up on the border in order to answer the border security challenges all along that northern border.

“We’ve been working with Canada on a whole lot of things and working together to make that border environment safer all the way around and this is just part of it.”

A week after being sworn into the new U.S. administration in January, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of vulnerabilities along the border with Canada. She and homeland security officials later portrayed the review as routine due-diligence by the incoming administration and dismissed suggestions the U.S. was considering a further “thickening” of the border….

Last week, she announced $60-million in funding for border states to beef up their contributions to border security. More than three-quarters of the money is to go to states neighbouring Mexico, where extensive drug trade is threatening border security.

A passing line in an accompanying press release noted the increase of 700 northern border agents, but failed to indicate whether the addition was previously planned or new. In May, 2008, the U.S. said its total complement of northern border agents would reach a maximum of 1,845 by this September, the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year.

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators from New York State on Thursday called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ms. Napolitano to step in and resolve a dispute between the federal government and a Mohawk group that has shutdown a border crossing between eastern Ontario and New York.

Democratic Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said the border closure has been “economically devastating” to Massena, N.Y. and the surrounding area. Mr. Schumer called Canada’s decision to shut the link between Ontario and New York “shortsighted” and unacceptable.

“The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security can provide much needed leadership to break this impasse,” said Mr. Schumer in a statement. “We must work together, let cooler heads prevail and open this crossing as soon as possible.”

The Canada Border Services Agency closed the crossing, which sits on a Mohawk reserve near Cornwall on May 31 after the community of Akwesasne said it would not allow the June 1 planned arming of border guards.

Since then, the bridge spans linking New York state to the Canadian crossing, and the crossing to the Ontario mainland, have remained shut to the general public.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has so far refused to meet with the Mohawk leadership to resolve the impasse and his office has repeatedly stated the matter was in the hands of the CBSA.

State Department spokesman Darby Holladay said Clinton would answer the correspondence.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The following is excerpted from the 3 June 2009 edition of “globeandmail.com”.

The Canadian government is asking the provinces to join it in creating a new trade deal with the United States.

Motivated by growing concern that Canadian firms are being frozen out of billions of dollars worth of bids in an increasingly protectionist United States, the Prime Minister is attempting to redraw the U.S.-Canada trade map.

Because the 1993 North American free-trade agreement does not include spending by local jurisdictions, contracts across North America involving everything from sewage systems to subway repairs are being awarded outside the framework of continental free trade.

And as the recession continues, Canadian firms have reported it is increasingly difficult to win rich contracts in U.S. cities because of the Buy American provisions of President Barack Obama’s massive economic stimulus package, even though NAFTA countries are supposed to be exempt from them.

So at a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he wants to bring the awarding of local contracts – in both the United States and Canada – under the free-trade umbrella.

Any Canadian proposal to add a new chapter to NAFTA, however carries the risk that the United States will demand trade concessions in other areas.

Mr. Harper said a new deal on local government spending would prevent “creeping protectionism.”

To take his message to the United States, he needs to get the provinces onside.

That will take arm-twisting, but has a precedent in the deals struck to launch trade negotiations with the European Union.

Last night, the Prime Minister joined Quebec Premier Jean Charest in hosting U.S. representatives and the premiers of Manitoba and New Brunswick at a private dinner in Quebec City.

“There are broad prohibitions against national preferences within NAFTA in particular and within the [World Trade Organization] as well, on &hellip federal-level procurement,” Mr. Harper said at a news conference in Quebec City.

“But those things do not apply to provinces, to municipalities.”

He noted that provinces have agreed to negotiate free trade in public procurement with the European Union….

Mr. Harper cautioned that no formal talks have been held yet with Canada’s NAFTA partners, the United States and Mexico.

But he raised concerns about protectionism during last night’s dinner.

Mr. Harper received the support of Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, who next month becomes the head of the National Governors Association representing 55 state and territorial leaders in the United States….

[Mr. Douglas] pointed out that the protectionism creates “artificial barriers” that will delay and obstruct many of the U.S. infrastructure programs.

Trade Minister Stockwell Day has been canvassing the provinces on the idea of opening up local spending to free trade, citing the consensus on EU free-trade talks.

The Europeans would not launch the talks until Canadian provinces committed to negotiating a deal that would allow their companies to bid for provincial and municipal contracts on an equal footing. Only Newfoundland refused.

“That’s really opened the door to the discussion now that we’re having with the provinces,” Mr. Day said yesterday.

Exporters say that the Buy American ethos is spreading through local governments in the United States.

“The talk now is that it’s embedding itself into the lower levels of procurement in the U.S., and our companies will be shut out because, even if it’s not the law, they think it’s the right thing to do given the times,” Ontario International Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello said.

Most provinces say they already allow U.S. companies to bid on their contracts, but there is a patchwork of rules, exceptions and protectionist measures, said trade lawyer Simon Potter of McCarthy Tetrault. Ontario, for example, buys only Ontario food for its prisons.

“It will take a lot of effort to get the provinces to agree,” said trade lawyer Lawrence Herman of Cassels Brock. “But it’s the only realistic way to solve the problem.”

The provinces’ immediate reactions were mixed. Manitoba Premier Gary Doer was cautious, noting that municipalities are debating the issue.

But Mr. Charest backed the idea: “I am among those who believe that we could do infrastructure projects together and take our inspiration from the Europeans,” he said.

Ms. Pupatello said Ontario backs the idea of such a deal because it is dependent on exports and already allows U.S. bids on most provincial contracts – but she expressed doubt that the United States could get its states and cities onside….

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

The following is excerpted from today’s edition of “globeandmail.com” .

Little more than a written warning and a wag of the finger greeted travellers arriving at the Canada-U.S. border without a passport yesterday as the latest bid by the United States to buttress homeland security began with a wink and a nudge.

It marked a soft launch of sorts for the latest phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which now requires everyone entering the country – including U.S. citizens to produce a passport at the border.

Travel delays failed to materialize amid modest cross-border traffic, a high degree of passport awareness on the Canadian side of the border and the willingness of U.S. border guards to give non-compliant travellers a pass – for now.

Kevin Corsaro, chief customs and border protective officer on the U.S. side of the Peace Bridge, said officials all along both the northern and southern borders were in “informed compliance” mode and likely would be for some time.

“If you cross anywhere within the United States, whether it’s on the northern border or the southern border, we’re applying this informed compliance phase,” Mr. Corsaro said.

“We don’t think it’s going to go away any time soon — we believe it’s going to go on throughout the summer. We’re waiting for further guidance from the department on that.”…

“I got just a warning sheet for now,” said [a traveller without proper documentation], who vowed to get herself a passport before trying to enter the U.S. again…

Indeed, a new Canadian Press Harris Decima poll released yesterday suggests that while about two-thirds of Canadians have a passport, most don’t think the new requirement will have a significant impact on security….

The survey found that just 28 per cent of respondents did not have a passport. Five per cent of those surveyed said they had no passport despite travelling to the U.S. at least once a year….

Very few travellers were showing up yesterday without passports, Mr. Corsaro said, but those who didn’t were not being turned away.

“We will not refuse a Canadian entry into this country if that’s their only violation,” he said. “We’ve seen absolutely no effect whatsoever from the implementation of the law today, in fact we’re seeing upward of 95-per-compliance as of last night at midnight.”…

According to Passport Canada, about 54 per cent of Canadians have the document, compared with just 30 per cent of Americans. The fear in Canada has been that the passport requirement would discourage U.S. tourists from travelling north.

Those who enter the U.S. without proper documents are given a paper that says: “Noncompliant. You are not in compliance with the secure document requirements that went into effect June 1, 2009, for entry into the United States.”

“U.S. and Canadian citizens must present a secure travel document for entry into the United States at land and sea ports of entry.”

Aside from a passport, other secure forms of documentation include a Nexus card or an “enhanced” driver’s licence.

Monday, June 1st, 2009

The following is excerpted from the 30 May 2009 edition of “The Star”.

This country’s financial future hangs somewhere between the optimism of Washington security czar Janet Napolitano’s Wednesday visit here and the pessimism of Monday’s new “papers, please” border controls. In the fight to keep trade flowing freely, painful Canadian sacrifices in blood, money and principles are proving poorly matched against U.S. terrorism fears and rising protectionism.

Two hard truths frame our current reality. Apart from national unity, not much is more vital to this country than timely access to the world’s richest market.

And nothing Ottawa has done since 9/11, not even Afghanistan missions costly in lives and loonies, convinced Washington that America’s back door is latched and locked.

That failure, multiplied by recession and the reflex U.S. “Buy American” response, has risky consequences. Along with squeezing arteries carrying more than a $1 million in goods and services every minute, they threaten the success of two economies moving beyond trade to making things together.

Without open capillaries between corporations operating in both countries, job-creating industries vital to Canada, including an auto sector already staggering under continental restructuring, will strangle. After all, only a bonehead CEO would invest on the wrong side of a thickening border easily closed by a terrorist strike&hellip.

Diplomacy, too, failed to make that point. After a good start with the Smart Border plan, Canadians have yet to persuade security-trumps-trade Americans that it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition: That it’s possible, and in both countries’ interest, to jointly defend the continent while maximizing the shared economic space&hellip.

Just as responsibility is shared, so too is blame. While Barack Obama’s administration is blinking as paranoia advances protectionism, successive ruling parties here avoided the seminal, politically explosive debate over the trade-offs between Canadian sovereignty and U.S. access. Ottawa didn’t want to talk about a shared perimeter or customs union after 9/11 and now Washington is building a border better suited to blocking Mexican migration and drugs than improving northern trade and security.

Napolitano’s willingness to endorse joint risk management strategies is a step forward. But the relationship will leap backwards Monday when guards start demanding passports at land crossings.

Though it’s too late to prevent that fall, it’s long past time to clearly identify the border as an existential Canadian priority. Politicians need to come clean about what’s at stake – and what it will cost – to stop the border becoming a barrier. Ministers and diplomats must calm security fears while building the layered, business and government coalitions required to win the debate that protectionism is a common and treacherous public enemy.

In magnitude and urgency, those projects dwarf even the recession, the soaring federal deficit and, yes, the foolish preoccupation here with the next federal election.