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Canada and the US announce new border agreement

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The United States and Canada announced this week plans for a joint border protection and trade deal. The goal is to develop common practices to screen travellers and cargo, with both countries agreeing it will clamp down on terrorism while expediting the border-crossing process for legitimate Canadian and American travellers and businesses.

The "Beyond the Border" plan, unveiled at the White House Wednesday, comes 10 months after both countries launched negotiations to create a new border agreement. The plan's goal is to ease regulations of trade goods while increasing the amount of information shared between the two countries about travellers and expediting their journey across the border.

"These agreements create a new, modern order for a new century," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said at a joint news conference with US President Barack Obama. "Together, they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. co-operation since the North American Free Trade Agreement."

The reforms aim to integrate programs for Canada-US border security and to streamline the flow of goods between the two countries through pre-inspection and pre-clearance.
Among other changes, there will be more opportunities for Canadian and US travellers to obtain NEXUS cards in order to gain faster clearance at border crossings. The joint Canadian-US NEXUS traveler program allows low-risk travelers to cross the border more easily as long as they're willing to submit to a background check, provide fingerprints and other personal data.

Other aspects of the "Beyond the Border" plan are as follows:
  • Enhance tracking of travellers in both countries so they can identify criminals who seek to enter either country.
  • A new entry-exit system will be established in which both countries share information on when their citizens have crossed the border.
  • Each country will obtain more information, including biometric data, from people in foreign nations seeking to come to the US and to Canada.
The governments aim by May 2012 to have a plan to put the initiatives in place.

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