Rep. DelBene gets feedback on commerce coming through Whatcom’s border with Canada

When it comes to commerce flowing through the northern border between Canada and Whatcom County, the big problems have been addressed and now more work needs to be done on smaller issues.

That appeared to be the sentiment when U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene met with Canadian Counsul General James Hill and local leaders on Thursday, March 12, at the Canada House on Western Washington University’s campus. Suggestions were made to DelBene and Hill to better improve the traffic flow on Whatcom County’s five border entry points, including creating an efficient pre-clearance system for businesses that transport the same materials on a regular basis and cutting out some paperwork to free up more border guards for the booths instead of the secondary area.

DelBene, D-Medina, said she also plans to reintroduce the Promoting Border Commerce and Travel Act when she returns to Washington, D.C. The legislation is aimed at preventing the creation of a land border crossing fee, something that Congress pondered in last year’s budget negotiations.

“I’m concerned that it (border crossing fees) will come up again,” DelBene said, adding that those fees would have a detrimental effect on border communities.

David Davidson, interim executive director at Western’s Border Policy Research Institute, was pleased to hear about more congenial interactions between travelers and border agents, something that was an issue in the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Now we are hearing about smaller, more focused issues,” Davidson said.

Long lineups continue to be a problem, even with a weaker Canadian dollar. Discussions included getting more travelers to apply for a NEXUS card, maybe a separate visa for business travelers bringing goods across the border and generally simplifying the process.

Another suggestion made at the meeting: Update the North American Free Trade Act to include jobs that didn’t exist when the act was signed 20 years ago, particularly in the technology fields.