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New U.S., Canada border deal geared to improving traffic flow

A new preclearance agreement between the U.S. and Canada signed Monday, March 16, 2015 could make it easier for private companies to move people across the border. Both countries must enact legislation for the agreement to be implemented.
A new preclearance agreement between the U.S. and Canada signed Monday, March 16, 2015 could make it easier for private companies to move people across the border. Both countries must enact legislation for the agreement to be implemented. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

A new preclearance agreement between the U.S. and Canada could make it easier for private companies to move people across the border.

The agreement, signed Monday, March 16, by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, would allow for some inspections to take place prior to arriving at the border, potentially reducing congestion and delays. Both countries must enact legislation for the agreement to be implemented.

This should be good news for ferry, bus and small airplane companies that take people into either country, said Laurie Trautman, associate director at the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University.

“This will mean less hassle and less time waiting at the the border,” she said.

Trautman cited the Victoria Clipper as an example. The ferry regularly takes passengers from Seattle to British Columbia and currently has to go through passenger clearance when it reaches Victoria. If a system can be put in place where much of the passenger information can be put in before the ferry ticket is purchased, it would save time, she said.

It also would head off some potential problems beforehand. Trautman said one common issue people don’t realize is if they have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, they could be denied entry into Canada. It would be better to get that straightened out before purchasing a ferry ticket.

Drew Schmidt of San Juan Cruises agreed. His Bellingham ferry company stopped offering trips to Victoria in 2011 because the passport requirement led to a decrease in passengers able to make the trip. He remembers passengers having to deal with the DUI issue regularly.

Schmidt it was good that steps are being taken to improve traffic across the border, and his company would consider bringing back the Victoria trip if the steps lead to a better system.

Trautman said how this agreement will be implemented still needs to be worked out. The border institute plans to work with companies and policymakers to come up with systems that work for both sides.

“I think people are excited about this,” she said. “It came together faster than we thought.”

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