As we begin a new year, your federal government remains focused on creating jobs and economic growth.

That is why we are pursuing an ambitious trade agenda, which means increased economic activity and more jobs here at home for Canadians. At the top of our trade agenda is improving access to Canada’s most important trading partner, the United States. I would like to update you on the most significant initiative in Canada-U.S. trade since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Every year, Canadians make almost 40 million trips to the United States. Every year, $600 billion worth of goods and services cross the border. More than 10 million jobs on both sides of the border depend on bilateral trade, and more trade crosses the Windsor-Detroit border than any other border crossing in the world. Canada and the United States have one of the most important trade relationships in the world. The success of this unique economic partnership depends on a smart, secure border.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the border between Canada and the United States has thickened significantly, slowing down trade and travel between the two countries. This is costing the Canadian economy billions in trade and threatening Canadian jobs. A study by the Brookings Institute suggests that the increased border security post-9/11 has resulted in negative economic effects for both Canada and the United States.

Last month, Prime Minister Harper and President Barack Obama announced that Canada and the United States have agreed to implement two action plans designed to speed up legitimate trade and travel, improve security in North America, and align regulations between the two countries. These action plans will strengthen trade between Canada and the United States, reverse border congestion, and improve the flow of goods and people between countries. By moving security to the perimeter of our continent, we can transform Canada-U.S. trade.

The Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness focuses on four areas of co-operation: addressing threats early; facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs; integrating cross-border law enforcement; and improving critical infrastructure and cyber-security. The Action Plan on Regulatory Cooperation will break down regulatory barriers and make it easier for Canadian and American businesses to do business on both sides of the border.

Each action plan respects the sovereignty of both countries. Canada and the United States are committed to co-operating in order to effectively manage their borders by promoting the principles of human rights, privacy, civil liberty and the rule of law. In addition, neither action plan changes Canada’s privacy laws or their application. As these action plans are implemented, the government will continue to inform Canadians of the progress being made.
Our government is committed to creating jobs and supporting Canada’s economy. The Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness and the Action Plan on Regulatory Cooperation is an important step forward in helping us reach these goals.