Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Border deal gets two thumbs up

by Candice Miller on December 9, 2011

┬áCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama sure know how to put a smile on Chuck Chrapko’s face.

The CEO of the Blue Water Bridge is calling the new border deal between Canada and the U.S. the best news he’s heard in a very long time.

Not only does it contain numerous measures to make it faster and easier to travel between the two countries, it opens the door for massive improvements on the American side of the bridge.

“These are the most sweeping changes that have been made since I’ve come here,” Chrapko said. “It’s great news.”

The long-awaited agreement will increase the number of NEXUS lanes coming into Canada to two from one, and add two lanes in which radio frequency identification, such as enhanced drivers’ licences, can be used.

Nexus cards expedite border clearance for low-risk, pre-approved travellers.

Nearly 50,000 residents in Sarnia-Lambton and Port Huron are Nexus card holders and will benefit from additional lanes, Chrapko said.

“It’s all about getting rid of all the red tape that has thickened the border,” he said. “They’re thinning the soup with some water.”

Commercial carriers will also see big benefits from the agreement since they will only be required to submit one set of paperwork to clear the border, rather than two.

“It really cleans it up, streamlines it,” Chrapko said. “When you’re dealing with billions of dollars worth of trade weekly, an agreement like this is very impressive.”

By easing border congestion, enhancing security and improving the largest trading relationship in the world, exports and imports will move faster and jobs will be maintained, he said.

Possibly, the most exciting news to come from the agreement is a U.S. commitment to improve border infrastructure and give priority to investment in Buffalo, Sarnia and Windsor.

Blue Water Bridge officials on both sides of the border have waited for years for government funding to bankroll a huge expansion of the American plaza.

Chrapko said he is optimistic a plan to increase customs lanes into the U.S. from 13 to 20 will be given much higher priority now.

“It’s something we’ve lobbied for for quite some time,” he said. “The U.S. plaza is finally on the map for funding.”

At the announcement Wednesday, Harper called the deal the biggest step towards co-operation with our neighbours south of the border since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. Congresswoman Candice Miller said, “Today’s announcement … is the best news we have had for the Blue Water Bridge during my time in Congress.”

Not only is cross-border trade and travel expected to improve as early as 2012, but security should also improve.

The joint perimeter deal contains a host of new security initiatives between the two countries, including an automatic Entry-Exit information-sharing system at borders like the Blue Water Bridge.

Ottawa believes the new measures will improve the government’s ability to track people who are in Canada illegally or who overstay their visa.

Washington and Ottawa also plan to automatically track immigration requests to both countries, so they can see if and why an applicant has been turned down in the past in either country.

Chrapko said he is pleased with the timelines in the agreement that should trigger change within months.

“I’m very impressed with how quickly they plan to initiate these various programs,” he said.

With files from QMI Agency

cdobson@theobserver.ca

http://www.theobserver.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3398629

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