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Trucking Perspective on Trudeau-Obama Summit: Leaders Restate Intentions on Pre-Clearance, Entry-Exit and Phase 2 GHG Regs

Following their meeting this morning in Washington, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Barack Obama highlighted the need to continue to build on and accelerate the work of existing bilateral agreements to facilitate trade between the two countries, enhance security of the shared border and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, aside from some new processes there was little new that hadn’t been announced before. However, David Bradley, president of the alliance, says “any time you get the leaders of the two countries agreeing, even directionally, to cooperate on things like border efficiency and facilitation of low-risk traders, that is a good thing.”

“Whether it amounts to anything remains to be seen. As always, the devil will be in the details.”

For example, the leaders say they “reinforced” their countries’ intentions to bring into force the Canada-US Agreement on Land, Rail, Marine and Air Transport Preclearance. However, the only specific announcements related to an agreement in principle was to expand preclearance to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and Quebec City’s Jean Lesage Airport as well as for rail service in Montreal and Vancouver. With regard to freight, all the leaders would say is they will “explore the conditions necessary for cargo preclearance and identify opportunities to pilot this approach.”

“CTA is hopeful that one day we will see true binational pre-clearance of commercial trucks before they reach the border, perhaps from a factory or distribution centre, so they won’t have to stop at an inspection booths at the border, but we’re far from that today,” said Bradley.

The major impediment to true pre-clearance, as opposed to pre-inspection or pre-screening (which still requires actual clearance on the US side, resulting in two stops rather than one) has been the desire of the US Customs and Border Protection to retain full US legal powers on Canadian soil.

The Prime Minister and the President also announced both countries will fully implement a system to exchange basic biographic entry information at the land border – again something that was agreed to some time ago.  This would expectedly mean the collection of ‘entry’ information into either Canada or the United States would also serve as ‘exit’ information for the other country. While it is somewhat concerned this requirement is a further intrusion into the supply chain, CTA acknowledges that sharing entry data is a better alternative than a previous U.S. proposal to have CBP agents stop every vehicle prior to exiting from the country. That approach, says Bradley, “would have increased the risk of delays both entering and exiting the United States.” Legislation is needed in Canada before the information sharing agreement can be introduced.

The two leaders also committed to advancing regulatory cooperation between the two countries “to its next level” by forming a joint Canada-US group of senior officials, including, for the first time, officials from regulatory departments, which CTA presumes (given references to motor vehicle safety and “interoperable connected vehicles”) will include Transport Canada and the US Department of Transportation. The proposal would bring together a business, consumer expert group on regulatory cooperation and call upon all departments and agencies to “generate ambitious short and medium term initiatives” and work plans by early summer.

In a joint statement on climate and energy, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment towards the finalization and implementation of a second phase of aligned greenhouse gas emission standards for post-2018 model year on-road heavy-duty vehicles. In his remarks following the meeting, the Prime Minister stated that Canada will align with the United States on the Phase 2 standards. CTA is on record as saying that while it supports heavy vehicle GHG-reduction standards, that alignment should not mean that Canada simply adopts the US rules and should instead introduce a rule that specifically takes into consideration Canada’s unique operating conditions.

“The Canadian truck fleet is not the same as the US truck fleet,” says Bradley. “In fact, the Canadian fleet is more productive, 22 per cent more fuel efficient and produces 22 per cent less GHG than the US fleet.”

“Canada cannot simply superimpose US rules and US solutions on our fleet,” he says. “A Made-in-Canada approach, using technologies that can function properly in Canadian conditions is required.”


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