(John Ibbitson — The Globe and Mail)
U.S. and Canadian negotiators have successfully concluded talks on a new deal to integrate continental security and erase obstacles to cross-border trade.
Negotiators have reached agreement on almost all of the three dozen separate initiatives in the Beyond the Border action plan, said sources who cannot be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The few remaining items mostly involve questions of wording and should be settled in time for an announcement in late September.
The most crucial phase then lies ahead, as both the Canadian and U.S. governments try to sell the proposals to their respective publics. A new poll suggests that in Canada, at least, that could be harder than it would have been a few years ago, although with a majority government, the Conservatives can pass any legislation that may be required, barring massive public opposition.
The stakes are high on the initiative, which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced together in Washington last winter. Mr. Harper has told individuals in private meetings that he sees the Beyond the Border talks as the most ambitious advance in Canada-U.S. relations since the Free Trade Agreement of 1988.
Without an agreement, the non-tariff barriers that have increasingly obstructed the border since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could remain in place and worsen. Read more here.