Canada wary of border impact
OTTAWA—Canada will be watching closely to see whether a massive scheduled budget cut in the U.S. this week will affect the “Beyond the Border” pact between the two countries, Foreign Affairs minister John Baird said yesterday.
Unless polarized U.S. law-makers can come together, about $85 billion (U.S.) in cuts are set to hit U.S. federal programs starting tomorrow.
Baird said the deal is key to the prosperity of both countries.
“We’re going to continue to be very, very focused on it,” he noted yesterday.
“After March 1, we’ll see what challenges arise,” Barid added. “Obviously, this is not the way Canada would prefer to make these types of budgetary decisions.
“But it is what it is.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama signed the vaunted border deal 14 months ago.
It is designed to speed trade across the 49th parallel while protecting the North American continent from terrorist threats.
Napolitano said the looming cuts—known as sequestration—will cause pain for Canadians, in particular at the busy Canada-U.S. border.
“Sequester will be felt up there because there’s only a few big crossing places for trade on the Canadian-U.S. border and they’re really important crossing places,” Napolitano said in a speech to a Washington think-tank.
“In fact, trade-wise, they’re probably the No. 1 or 2 crossing places in the world.
“As sequester evolves and we have to furlough people who are port officers and not fill vacant positions, and not pay overtime, we’re unfortunately going to see those lines really stretch,” she admitted.
If Congress fails to reach a deal to avert the cuts, Napolitano said, the jobs will be lost.
Cuts to customs and border security staff will increase congestion and hurt Canadian companies, warned Fen Hampson, director of the global security program at the Waterloo, Ont. Centre for International Governance Innovation.
“More generally, if there is a slowdown in U.S. growth as a result of sequestration’s general adverse impact on the U.S. economy as many predict, it will also hurt trade,” added Hampson.