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Canada-U.S. border agreement draws mixed reactions from Canadians

12-08-2011 13:58 BJT

by Mark Bourrie

OTTAWA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- A security deal announced on Wednesday by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington drew mixed reactions from various walks of life in Canada.

The deal, which both leaders say will ease problems along the countries' border while protecting North America from terrorists, aims to make trade and travel across the border more efficient.

Cutting red tape is expected to save businesses on both sides of the border 16 billion Canadian dollars (15.85 billion U.S. dollars) a year. The plan calls for pilot projects to begin next April.

Canadian business leaders praised the deal, calling it the most important agreement since the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement.

John Manley, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and a former Liberal finance minister, told reporters Wednesday the deals were "a valuable step forward."

And truckers, who hope to be able to cross the border much more quickly, support the deal.

"This was a historic achievement that takes meaningful steps and brings Canada and the U.S. into the 21st century," said David Bradley, president and CEO of the Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance.

"They've done a good job and we are very satisfied with what we see today."

New Democratic Party MP Brian Masse, who is a member of the federal government's Canada-U.S. border relations committee, said he welcomed any attempts to ease trade.

At the same time, he warned Canadians that the deal may never be implemented.

"We've seen this before," he said. "A lot of this depends on their attitude and how this gets rolled out. We've been promised things before (by the U.S.) and instead all we have seen is greater militarization of the border."

Critics of the deal say information-sharing between the two countries will erode the privacy rights of people on both sides of the border.

The nationalist group Council of Canadians says it doubts the privacy of Canadians will be protected under the new agreement.

"Following the implementation of the Patriot Act in the U.S. after Sept. 11 (2001), privacy has virtually ceased to exist with respect to government collection, storage and sharing of information," the organization said in a statement.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart also noted Canada and the U.S. have different legislative ways of protecting privacy, and that there is no privacy oversight structure which monitors U.S. law enforcement and national security authorities.

"Rather than jumping into a newly defined relationship with both feet, we should only do so with both eyes wide open," said Stoddart in a statement.

Interim Liberal Party Leader Bob Rae said the deal does not deal with some border irritants, like a new 5 Canadian dollars(4.95 dollars) fee charged to every Canadian entering the U.S. As well, he noted Obama said the agreement depends on U.S. budgetary approval.

The Council of Canadians also claims the agreement undermines Canada's regulatory system, including food inspection by establishing a Standardization Council to harmonize Canadian and U.S. regulations.

"Standardization can be a good thing when standards are high," said Council of Canadians chair Maude Barlow.

"Considering how integrated many Canadian and U.S. industries are, it makes sense to look at ways to ease the flow of goods," she said, "The problem is standards aren't higher in the U.S. in many cases and Harper clearly thinks little of environmental protection or public health."

Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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