So Beyond the Border (BTB) is in the news--well, the Canadian news.
And, from these reports, you might think BTB is entering an avoidable, but troubling, crash-landing trajectory.
Putting BTB in Context
Yes, sequestration and the apparent delay in NextGen (read below for details) isn't spectacular BTB news. But there's some context that both articles fail to emphasize enough:
(1) Beyond the Border is really two pieces:
- BTB Action Plan: the effort to make safer, more efficient, and commercially navigable borders), which primarily goes through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Public Safety Canada (PSC).
- Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC): easing the regulatory burdens--safety inspections, etc.--facing U.S. and Canadian goods when they enter one another's markets. The primary workhorse of these efforts is the U.S. White Office of Management Budget and Canada's Privy Council.
Why this is important: Both articles cited below omit any discussion of the RCC.
(2) Work is moving ahead on both the BTB Action Plan and RCC fronts:
- Check out this December 2012 OMB blog post on the RCC's progress.
- And look at this progress report from DHS released earlier this month.
Why this is important: (1) BTB has a lot of moving parts, and (2) while things could always move quicker, progress is being made.
But this doesn't mean the articles below are not highlighting valid BTB concerns.
And what may be really stoking BTB concern the noticeable absence of U.S. press coverage on the subject.
So what BTB-talk is showing up in the Canadian press?
Canadian Press on Sequester and Legal Difficulties Dragging BTB
rabble.ca and the National Post, among others, are highlighting possible delays to Beyond the Border (BTB) implementation. But, as noted by The Globe and Mail, real progress still continues on moving BTB forward.
Stuart Trew at rabble.ca discusses the impact of sequestration and "NextGen" legal issues on BTB.
Canadian Press reports this week that if U.S. Congress cannot sort out a deal on spending cuts, "sequestration will thrust Americans into an age of austerity that threatens to bring to a halt some of the projects envisioned by Beyond the Border." Sequestration, explains the article, "is a massive package of sweeping, automatic spending cuts to an array of U.S. federal departments and agencies set to take effect on March 1." The "age of austerity" part may be exaggerating it a bit, but both Democrats and Republicans agree there is a real problem here.
The article quotes Canadian business lobbyists who suggest the U.S. budget cuts would most likely impact some parts of the Canada-U.S. Beyond the Border Action Plan, including:
- no expansion of, and likely cuts to, pre-clearance at airports in Canada
- a slower pace or missed deadlines on other initiatives
Additionally, some Beyond the Border initiatives are stalled on legal questions not related to sequestration or lack of U.S. interest.
In early February, Embassy Magazine reported that "Canadian and United States officials are facing continued delays in secretive talks to allow American law enforcement agents to cross the land border and pursue people onto Canadian soil… The program, officially known as the Next Generation of Integrated Cross-Border Law Enforcement, was supposed to be tested through two pilot projects by last summer, but as of Feb. 1 the pilot is still on hold."
The National Post's Mike Blanchfield hones in on sequester's immediate impact:
“Sequester will be felt up there because there’s only a few big crossing places for trade on the Canadian-U.S.border and they’re really important crossing places,” [U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano said in a speech to a Washington think tank. [Note: Read Napolitano’s full speech to Brookings here.]
“In fact, trade-wise, they’re probably the No. 1 or 2 crossing places in the world. As sequester evolves and we have to furlough people who are port officers and not fill vacant positions, and not pay overtime, we’re unfortunately going to see those lines really stretch.”
If Congress fails to reach a deal to avert the cuts, Napolitano said, the jobs will be lost.
In addition to the 5,000 border patrol agents, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is preparing to reduce its work hours by the equivalent of 2,750 inspectors as well, meaning cargo inspections at the border could drag on interminably for Canadian exporters.