Dismantle the border, CEOs say
Make it an 'internal checkpoint,' council argues in citing security and trade concerns

National Post 01/14/03: Robert Fife

Original Link:
http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?id={59424D46-D8D4-4847-8139-0A80CAC4B95B}

OTTAWA - The Canadian Council of Chief Executives wants to dramatically remake Canada-U.S. relations, calling for the creation of a jointly managed North American perimeter with a common approach to borders, trade, immigration, security and defence.

''What we are really talking about is totally reinventing the border. The border should no longer be seen as a demarcation line between Canada and the United States. It should simply be an internal checkpoint,'' said Tom D'Aquino, president of the CCE, which represents Canada's 150 largest corporations.

''The whole focus on our strategy is homeland security and economic security. The two things are really inseparable.''

He is expected to tomorrow propose jointly managed North American entry points to combat terrorism, drug smuggling and illegal immigration, while opening up most border crossings to the relatively free passage of goods and citizens.

Dismantling the borders would require increased co-operation with law enforcement in both countries and similar policies on travel visas, immigration and refugees.

Mr. D'Aquino, who will unveil the group's blueprint tomorrow, said there is a ''virtual certainty of further terrorist strikes on the North America homeland'' making it imperative for Canada to develop a new security and economic coalition with the U.S or risk a loss of Canadian sovereignty.

''We are not talking about doing it the American way. What we are talking about in some instances are joint institutions, shared responsibility,'' he said.

The CEOs' council is holding a conference in Toronto today and tomorrow featuring keynote speakers Paul Martin, the former finance minister and Liberal leadership front-runner, and Paul Cellucci, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

Mr. D'Aquino would not reveal specific proposals until tomorrow, but said it is also time to move beyond the North American Free Trade Agreement to form a sort of customs union with the United States and Mexico to accelerate trade and address continental security.

This would require common regulatory and administrative solutions that might be unpalatable to Congress. But Mr. D'Aquino said it need not be presented as a treaty but rather a series of initiatives that would not require congressional approval. The CCE has discussed the strategy with its U.S. and Mexican counterparts.

Mr. D'Aquino, who will unveil the group's blueprint tomorrow, said there is a ''virtual certainty of further terrorist strikes on the North America homeland'' making it imperative for Canada to develop a new security and economic coalition with the United States or risk a loss of sovereignty.

''We are not talking about doing it the American way," he said. "What we are talking about some instances are joint institutions, shared responsibility."

The CEOs' council is holding a major conference in Toronto today and tomorrow featuring keynote speakers Paul Martin, the former finance minister and Liberal leadership front-runer, and Paul Cellucci, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

Mr. D'Aquino would not reveal specific proposals until tomorrow, but said it is also time to move beyond the North American Free Trade Agreement to form a sort of customs union with the United States and Mexico to accelerate trade and address continental security.

This would require common regulatory and administrative solutions that might be unpalatable to Congress. But Mr. D'Aquino said it need not be presented as a treaty but rather a series of initiatives that would not require congressional approval. The CCE has discussed the strategy with its U.S. and Mexican counterparts.

Mr. D'Aquino said it is up to Canada to take a lead role in selling Washington on a new continental relationship, because the United States is too preoccupied with the Korean nuclear threat, the prospect of war in Iraq and global terrorism.

''We can't look to the Americans to come forward with a plan. It is our responsibility to do that just exactly what we did in the 1980s with free trade,'' he said. ''If we can do all of that, we'll end up with something that will [be] good for Canada, good for the United States and good for North America.''

Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, has been leery about the creation of a common perimeter, fearing a loss of Canadian sovereignty because security and economic decisions would, in some instances, be made jointly with a partner 10 times larger.

But the federal Cabinet is divided on the idea, with many ministers arguing Canada already has a perimeter with the United States in several areas, such as joint responsibility of North American defence through NORAD. Both also share the perimeter concept in pre-clearances at airports and container ships headed to North America.

Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, has even mused about expanding North American integration beyond trade and tariffs into social policy.

A recent poll by Michael Marzolini, the Liberal party's pollster, found 66% of Canadians want even closer economic ties to the United States, with only 5% adamantly opposed.










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