Canada and the United States have long shared the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. In 2010, $27 billion of goods were imported and exported by air between Canada and the United States.
In Canada, just under half of all air cargo is shipped on passenger planes. This is the most effective shipping method for high value or perishable cargo, considering Canada’s unique geography and size of industry.
On February 4, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama issued a Declaration on a Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness establishing a new long-term partnership that will accelerate the legitimate flows of goods and people between both countries.
On December 7, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced the Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competiveness. The Action Plan was designed to speed up legitimate trade and travel, improve security in North America, and align regulatory approaches between the two countries.
Achievement of mutual recognition of air cargo security programs is the first step toward fulfilling the integrated cargo security objectives of the Action Plan.
Mutual Recognition Process
To achieve mutual recognition, Canada and the U.S. worked collaboratively to ensure commensurate security controls exist within their air cargo security programs. Each country formally reviewed the other’s national security program including: program design, regulations, oversight and compliance, audit and site validation visits. As a result of this process, Canada and the U.S. achieved mutual recognition of their respective national air cargo security programs effective March 31st, 2012.
Under the new mutual recognition initiative, cargo shipped on passenger aircraft will be screened at the point of origin and will not need to be rescreened at the border or prior to upload in the other country. With the two countries mutually recognizing each other’s air cargo security programs, the efficiency of screening is improved and the burden on the industry is reduced.
The screening processes used for passengers and luggage are considerably different to those used to secure cargo shipments. There is a large variation in the physical size and configuration of cargo, the nature of wrapping and crating used, and material contents differ widely. For example, the technology used to screen a suitcase does not work for a large pallet of machine parts.
To accommodate these differences, air cargo in Canada is screened using several methods including physical inspection, canine check, explosive trace detection or x-ray scanning. The details of these requirements and how they are applied are confidential, for security reasons.
Not Just Air Cargo
Air cargo is just the start. Canada and the U.S. are working together to strengthen co-ordination, co-operation and timely decision-making at the border for cargo shipped by sea or land with a view to increasing two-way trade, and reducing travel and commercial disruptions. When the Action Plan is fully implemented, the principle of “screened once, accepted twice” is intended to apply to all modes of shipping cargo.