Security, Prosperity on Agenda for US, Canada, Mexico Meeting

July 7, 2008 - 7:31 PM

Ottawa (CNSNews.com) - Cabinet ministers and secretaries from Canada, the United States and Mexico will push ahead Monday with plans to streamline commerce without threatening security between their three countries, according to Canadian officials here.

At a one-day meeting in Ottawa to be chaired by Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, the officials hope to find ways to ease trade through regulation rather than new legislation, they said.

One of them, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the regulatory route was speedier than legislation, and officials already had the authority to reduce trade barriers in many instances.

He said the three countries had so far managed to introduce savings worth $20 billion a year simply by reducing rules of origin requirements. He believed the ministers would agree on another tranche of a similar value at their Monday meeting.

Another Canadian official said that the ministers would be presented Monday with "one hundred-plus" initiatives to improve trade flow between the three countries. He declined to elaborate.

The meeting will be the first under the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership agreed by U.S. President Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in Waco, Texas, this past March.

That agreement allows the three North American Free Trade Agreement member states to take measures, either trilaterally or bilaterally, to increase trade and border security.

This would allow, for instance, the U.S. and Canada to agree on cross-border measures that might differ from those in place between the U.S. and Mexico.

After Monday's meeting, the three countries are due to hold consultations twice a year in an effort to streamline both security and commerce.

The Waco agreement, according to a background document issued at the time, aims to enhance border security and bio-protection, implement a common approach to emergency response, improve aviation and maritime security, combat transnational threats and enhance intelligence partnership.

It sought at the same time to "improve the legitimate flow of people and cargo at our shared borders."

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