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Homeland Security Boss Says Pre-Clearance Border Deal on the Horizon

In an exclusive Q&A interview with Macleans Magazine, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said he expects an agreement sometime this year on land-border pre-clearance between the U.S. and Canada and made some positive comments about the new international crossing expected for Windsor-Detroit.

Johnson, who was in Ottawa this week to discuss a wide-rand of binational issues such as counterterrorism, domestic threats and the Canada-U.S. border, commented on the ever-changing  Canada-U.S. border, saying he’s focused on the economic trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. as well as security.

“Part of my mission is promoting lawful trade and travel. Commerce between our two countries passes through ports of entry that are regulated by my department. It’s not simply securing our borders. After 9/11 there was an attitude here to pull the drawbridges up, but we’ve come a long way from that.”

On the Beyond the Border initiative, Johnson said he’s a “big fan” of pre-clearance:

“We are working toward a pre-clearance agreement with Canada that I think will be unprecedented, where we will have pre-clearance capability at airports, rail stations, land ports of entry. That will be a big deal. [Canadian Public Safety] Minister [Steven] Blaney and I are working toward entering into such an agreement sometime later this year.”

At the same time, Johnson dismissed suggestions by some politicians in the U.S. that the Canada-US border is “porous” and indicated he would like to see more information-sharing between the two countries at the border.

“We would like to have a system in place to make it easier for an exporter or importer to ‘register once and be counted twice ‘ – a single portal process where the information provided to one government is good for the other. That just promotes lawful trade and travel. There is also information-sharing in terms of individuals of suspicion who may be travelling from one country to the other, or through one country to another place. But our principal efforts on information-sharing are devoted to promoting lawful trade and travel.”

Johnson also said he was encouraged by the progress being made regarding the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) and also somewhat vaguely  “committed” himself to the accompanying highway interchange in Detroit as well as a $250-million U.S. customs plaza project, which is considered one of the last hurdles before  construction on a new bridge can begin.

“This project is important to both our countries. I have personally seen the site for the new bridge, for our new customs plaza. I am committed to seeing us make progress. We are in active discussions right now and I think our discussions are heading in a positive direction.”

Click here for the full Macleans interview.

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