U.S., Canada reach border deal

| Friday, December 14, 2001

U.S. and Canadian officials signed a "smart border" action plan Wednesday that calls for increasing security while speeding the flow of commerce by truck. Under the agreement, trucks loaded with goods bound for either country would be pre-cleared and "electronically sealed" and then would be allowed to go into a fast lane helping to speed the flow of trade across the border.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley endorsed the action plan after two days of talks in Ottawa. The plan lists steps taken by both countries and further planned measures in a coordinated effort to improve border safety since Sept. 11. It also focuses on preventing border traffic jams and other delays to maintain about $1.3 billion a day in trade.

Provisions include resuming a computer system that eases the entry process into both countries for low-risk, pre-approved frequent users and new technology to clear goods in factories, rail yards and seaports instead of waiting until they reach the border crossing. Lanes also would be dedicated for pre-cleared trucks carrying cargo. New technology would be used to screen people and goods.

"Biometrics" technology would be used to share information on so called high-risk applicants, making it more difficult for someone who has changed a name or passport to slip into either country. The technology uses a digital scan of a thumbprint, iris or hand to identify a person.

An additional proposal still under discussion is placing guards and custom officials on both sides of the border. If approved, a change in Canadian law would be required to allow armed U.S. border guards on Canadian soil.

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