Great Lakes Manufacturing Council

Un-thickening the Canadian/U.S. Border


More than $1.1 trillion in bi-national trade and investment is at stake each year, and Canada and the U.S. are each the other's largest export market.  The greatest impact of those numbers flows through the Great Lakes.  An efficient border for the world's two largest trading partners is one of the Great Lakes Manufacturing Council's pillars.   

For years, the Canadian and U.S. governments talked about improving the flow of people and freight, but there was little real progress and the border "thickened", to use a Canadian term.  In December, 2011, however, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama unveiled an ambitious, two-pronged initiative in the form of the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan.  This collaborative effort on steroids involves more than 15 federal agencies and 60-plus actions to improve flows while ensuring security and protecting sovereignty.  Those two action plans were informed by the proactive groundbreaking collaboration of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).  

Building on that CME/NAM foundation, the Council has helped to trigger a process coordinated by the U.S. Chamber to generate more public information about the progress of these two landmark accords.  The good news is that we are well placed and have strong organizational friends on both sides of the border now engaged, including CME, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and other Council members.  The working group on this issue currently includes more than 40 representatives from associations, chambers of commerce, trading organizations and other groups.  Anyone interested in participating is welcome to help.  Contact Rebecca Schneider, Council executive staff.

In addition to establishing a regular conference call update, the group has decided to morph itself into a “Stakeholder Coordination Coalition (SCC).”  The SCC is assigning volunteers to cover one or two of the many border initiatives by checking in with related agencies and reporting back.  Instead of waiting for agency reports, the SCC intends to get information out on a more proactive basis.  The Wilson Center, in Washington, D.C., has volunteered to be the central reference for all the updates.

During the most recent conference call, participants agreed there are a lot of signs that agencies are making progress, however, the agencies are not issuing many public reports.  Agencies do seem open to sharing their progress with the SCC on a more continuous informal basis.  Cleaning up restrictions that clog the Canada-U.S. border could save businesses in both countries as much as $30 billion a year, according to Canada's minister of international trade in an October, 2011 report published by the Canada Institute, at the WilsonCenter.  That will obviously translate into jobs and investment.  Stay tuned.....

For more information on the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan, you may click the links below for the U.S. and Canadian websites:

Canadian Beyond the Border Action Plan Website

United States Beyond the Border Action Paln Website

Canadian Regulatory Cooperation Council Website

United States Regulatory Cooperation Council Website