Congressman Bill Owens praised the recent agreement between President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, declaring a shared responsibility to maintain a secure, yet fluid border between the two countries. As co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus, Owens has long advocated for a "tag team effort" along the border that fosters an environment of economic growth and keeps the region safe.
"This agreement represents a big win for New York," said Owens. "This report contains practical and common sense steps to secure our border without stifling the movement of people and goods. The sharing of information and data between our two nations will streamline security efforts, allow us to focus on the "bad guys,' and encourage commerce and job creation between our communities."
Owens points to several major issues in the Beyond the Border Action Plan that will bolster border security and economic growth efforts:
* Co-location of U.S. -- Canadian processing in Massena, New York: The Canadian Border Services Agency will conduct full pre-clearance of goods and travelers at Massena. Negotiations are expected to be completed by December, 2012.
* Pre-clearance of Amtrak passengers: Canadian and U.S. authorities will develop a pre-clearance and pre-inspection system for rail passengers by December, 2012, which Owens is hopeful will be expanded to the Albany-Montreal Amtrak route.
* Wait times at the border: By March, 2012, Canadian and U.S. authorities will develop a plan to jointly measure and compare wait times and traffic at the border, which will be made available to the public.
* Pilot program for food imports: By July, 2012, Canada will initiate a pilot program to permit the expedited clearance for certain food processors at the border.
* NEXUS Program: By March 31, 2012, U.S. and Canadian authorities will develop a plan to expand NEXUS lanes, booths and pre-clearance options, facilitating faster movement of travelers on both sides of the border.
* Infrastructure Investment Plan: By June 30, 2012, U.S. and Canadian authorities will develop a joint infrastructure investment plan for major border crossings, including Alexandria Bay and St. Bernard de Lacolle (sister port to Champlain) as well as smaller, remote crossings.
Owens has long called for many measures included in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, including greater use of technology at the border, joint and co-managed facilities, and modified hours of operations.
In October, Owens met with Canadian officials in Ottawa to discuss job creation, international trade and border security. The co-location of customs facilities in Massena is a project that Congressman Owens has advocated for since April, 2010.
"I believe we have an agreement that will help expedite the movement of goods and people, and I will work to ensure its quick and efficient implementation," Owens added.