Pre-clearing Canadian customs in the U.S.? It could soon be a reality

Pre-clearing Canadian customs in the U.S.? It could soon be a reality

WASHINGTON — Canada could soon have its first customs facilities inside the U.S., says an American official who cites Florida and Arizona as potential sites for pilot projects in ongoing experiments to modernize the border.

This would come decades after American preclearance facilities were first placed at major Canadian airports, where travellers have long cleared customs before flying to the U.S., with the goal of reducing wait times at the back end.

Newer innovations involve train travel, with pilot projects to have rail passengers clear U.S. customs in Montreal and B.C., as the latest in ongoing efforts between the administrations of Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Next, the project could spread south, an official said Monday.

“While Canada has not yet deployed inspection personnel to the United States to facilitate pre-clearance movement into Canada, we hope to see steps on this in the near-future. Perhaps in a pilot project in Scottsdale, or in Fort Lauderdale, for example,” said Kenneth Merten, a deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state.

“Such deployments can only make cross-border commerce and travel more efficient … With the world growing smaller every day, we look to these and other programs to further facilitate trade and travel flows.”

He was among several speakers at a conference about the future of the Canada-U.S. border, hosted in Washington by the Wilson Center.

A Canadian official speaking at the conference says speeding up the border is an economic imperative. He said border wait times cost the Canadian economy somewhere between 1% and 1.8% of GDP in 2010.

“A more efficient, seamless border will make it easier for passengers,” said Vincent Rigby, associate deputy minister at Public Safety Canada.

“It’s also essential to our economies.”

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