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The Beyond the Border Action Plan at Six Months

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The primary goal of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, said David Moloney of Canada’s Privy Council Office, is to ensure that cargo is inspected only once when entering either Canada or the United States. Currently, if an import from Asia arrives at the Canadian port of Prince Rupert, it must be stopped and go through an additional inspection before it can enter the United States. The Action Plan will ensure that one inspection, whether American or Canadian, will be sufficient to guarantee the security of both countries. To accomplish these ambitious goals, the Action Plan sets out very clear dates and assigned leads for the completion of its various programs and pilot projects, as well as tight oversight to ensure progress. Moloney pointed out that international cooperation on this scale is rare, and the Action Plan demonstrates the strength and depth of the Canada-U.S. relationship.

Economic, judicial, and law enforcement concerns must be accounted for when instituting ambitious programs such as the Action Plan, said Moloney. To deal with these challenges, the two government enacted guidelines for protecting cross-border exchanges of private information in  the recently released Statement of Privacy Principles by the United States and Canada. In addition to the Privacy Principles, other programs are being used to further enhance the flow of information at the border. Moloney pointed to one such program involving a cross audit of the Canadian and U.S. respective air import rules. The audit found that both countries’ inspection processes were wholly compatible, thus allowing for a seamless integration of the traveler inspection regimes. These triumphs should assure all interested parties that the difficult challenges of reforming the border are being undertaken in the most judicious and efficient way possible. Moving forward, the creation of an Executive Steering Committee will ensure that progress on a safe and responsible “thinning” of the border will continue after the three-year window of the Beyond the Border Acton Plan is complete.

Canada is by far the most important economic relationship that the United States has, said Alan Bersin of the Department of Homeland Security. The importance of the relationship necessitates increased cooperation with programs such as “once inspected, twice cleared.” This type of cooperation has roots in the shared history of both nations. Binational cooperation in programs such as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) shows that Americans and Canadians will work together efficiently to solve a problem. As with the Soviet threat before it, international terrorism also requires a coordinated response that will allow both Canadian and U.S. authorities to interdict terrorist plots as far from our borders as possible. In addition to pushing threats away from the border, the plan also focuses on reducing transaction costs, integrating law enforcement at all levels of government, and increasing the ability of both nations to protect their shared infrastructure: bridges, tunnels, as well as utility and cyber infrastructure.

Bersin maintained that this continental approach to the defense of both nations will increase efficiency and safety at the border. During this process, both Canadians and Americans must be mindful of issues regarding sovereignty, legal incongruities, and the problems associated with moving toward more ambitious plans in the future. To further protect and make the border more efficient, Bersin also advocated for federal and local governments to work together to increase law enforcement presence and create a freer flow of legal goods and services between the United States and Canada. However, progress must be made in measured steps to ensure that the Action Plan increases both security and trade for North America with sufficient buy-in from all interested parties. 


  • Alan D. Bersin

    Global Fellow
    Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Chief Diplomatic Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Policy, and Vice President of INTERPOL for the Americas Region
  • David Moloney

    senior advisor, Privy Council Office