This document was originally published as a University of Calgary School of Public Policy Research Paper, volume 4, issue 8, August 2011. It is available on the School’s website at


The perimeter security and economic competitiveness initiative is a bold undertaking — the first, potentially major, bilateral initiative in more than two decades. The agenda for negotiations is intended to streamline access for people, goods and services, improve cooperation between border agencies and law enforcement officials, and alleviate the regulatory over-burden that stifles the efficiency of a highly integrated North American economy.

Border issues have languished for the past decade. New monitoring and surveillance technologies, all in the name of enhanced security, frustrate rather than facilitate trade. New inspection procedures and reporting mechanisms were introduced, contributing to long line ups at border crossings and undermining the practical advantage of “Just-in-time” deliveries for tightly organized cross-border supply chains.

In an age of new security threats, including from cyberspace, it makes sense to heighten surveillance and joint monitoring capacities. Likewise, the forces of globalization oblige countries like Canada and the U.S. to revitalize trade flows and break down regulatory barriers.

There are no guarantees of success and much hard negotiation lies ahead. A key ingredient will be firm, persistent political prodding from the top. The new majority government in Ottawa should help.