Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pre-Clear Border Shipping

(National Post – Michael Hart)

For nearly a century, Canadian and American officials have worked together to reduce the divide created by their common border. Until 9/11, their efforts were crowned with increasing success; after 9/11, security concerns thickened the border and undermined the benefits that Canadians and Americans had come to expect from what Sir Winston Churchill once characterized as the world’s longest undefended border.

This downward spiral need not, and should not, continue. Modern technology allows the two governments to return to the successful trajectory of the past by pre-clearing as many people and goods as possible before they arrive at the physical border. Clearance at the physical border limits the amount of information and time required for inspectors to make informed decisions about risk and compliance. Satisfying all clearance requirements at the border can also delay travellers and shippers, lead to traffic congestion, add to the cost of doing business across the border, and chill discretionary trade, investment and travel.

A well-functioning border is critical to commerce in the integrated North American economy. The days are long gone when the norm was a carrier crossing the border loaded with finished products destined for retail shelves. Today, that carrier is usually part of a time-sensitive supply chain, loaded with inputs and components destined for further operations in the other country. The hidden tax of new data and of processing requirements adds significantly to production costs, undermining the competitiveness of North American producers, particularly those whose products cross the border several times during production.

Pre-clearance will offer such users a system that is more cost-effective than one that relies almost exclusively on inspection and verification at the physical border. It will also provide border officials with more reliable and timely information to make prudent risk assessments. Read more here.