Officials discuss ways to speed up border traffic

DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Efforts are under way to speed up trade and travel between Canada and the United States, a move that could help North Dakota sell even more goods to its northerly neighbor, officials said Friday during a conference about the border.

The advancements include security methods that allow much of the screening to be done before the border, real-time information on delays and other problems, new ports of entry with cutting-edge inspection technologies, and increased cooperation between the two countries.

"You can do things at the border that both enhance security and increase the ability to move people and goods across the border," said Tim Cipullo, principal officer at the U.S. consulate in Winnipeg, Manitoba. "In the simplest terms, you've got known good people, known bad people and the vast in between.

"The idea is to move people out of middle area into the known good and the known bad," he said.

Canada and the U.S. have the largest two-way trading relationship in the world, with $2 billion crossing the border every day. The U.S. sells three times more to Canada than it does to China.

Mike Flaherty, senior trade commissioner at the Canadian consulate in Minneapolis, said the manufacturing sectors, supply chains and regulations between the two nations are highly integrated.

"If there is one thing you should take away from this, when it comes to the Canada and U.S. trade relationship, is that we make things together," Flaherty said.

Canada buys more products from North Dakota than all of its other trading partner countries combined. About $2.2 billion in goods from North Dakota went to Canada in 2011, most notably agriculture, mining, oil and industrial products. Conversely, about 70 percent of Manitoba's exports in 2011 went to the U.S.

North Dakota already enjoys a billion dollar surplus and has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.

"It's a good time to be in North Dakota, we all know that, and it's a good time to promote trade," said Andy Peterson, chairman of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.

Mary Delaquis, director of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Pembina, and Yvonne Bremault, director of the Canadian Border Services Agency in Emerson, Manitoba, said they're working to make the border experience better for both truckers and travelers.

Canada's eManifest program eventually will allow carriers to electronically transmit cargo data before reaching the border, similar to the Automated Commercial Environment, or ACE, system in the U.S.

"This will improve the ability to identify and mitigate threats to Canada while increasing the speed of shipments across the border," Bremault said.

Delaquis highlighted a federal program that has paid for new or improved facilities at all but two of North Dakota's border stations.

"These new facilities allow us to do our jobs better and quicker," she said. "I'm adamant that if you arrive in Antler, N.D., or Neche, N.D., or way out there in Noonan, N.D., when you arrive, it's going to be a consistent approach."

Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said the two countries are sharing information like never before. He highlighted a demonstration on complex communication technology that took place at a meeting last week in Seattle.

"I sat in a room where a (U.S.) border patrol officer took the radio off his belt and within a matter of minutes the person he was talking to was a Mountie, an RMCP employee, on the other side of the border south of Vancouver," Purdon said. "You had a bunch of lawyers and law enforcement officers just giddy about someone talking on a radio."

Purdon said the goal is to keep the border "open for trade, but closed for crime."