The United States and Canada have announced deals to ease the flow of trade between them and improve security on their common border. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met Wednesday at the White House.
The U.S. and Canada have the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, with more than $1.1 trillion in trade and investment crossing the border last year.
The two countries’ leaders have announced two agreements which President Obama said will further streamline cross-border trade and improve their common security.
“Put simply, we are going to make it easier to conduct the trade and travel that creates jobs, and we are going to make it harder for those who would do us harm and threaten our security," said President Obama.
Mr. Obama said more than 90 percent of U.S.-Canada trade passes through roads, bridges and ports, many of which he says need updating.
The president said one of the deals will provide those upgrades.
“We are going to improve our infrastructure," said Obama. "We are going to introduce new technologies. We are going to improve cargo security and screening-all designed to make it easier for our companies to do business and create jobs.”
The agreement would also boost security along the U.S.-Canadian border, through increased coordination and the sharing of intelligence between the two allies.
The other deal would reduce regulations on cross-border trade.
Prime Minister Harper said the agreements are the most important between Canada and the U.S. in almost 20 years.
“These agreements create a new, modern border for a new century," said Prime Minister Harper. "Together they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
The two leaders also discussed an issue that has caused some difficulty between them, the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, which would pump oil from Canada to the US state of Texas.
Mr. Obama delayed a decision on a route for the pipeline until 2013, after environmentalists complained about the possible ecological impact.
The president said Wednesday he told Mr. Harper it is important to ensure that all questions about the project are answered before the pipeline goes ahead.
Opposition Republicans in Congress say the $7 billion project would create thousands of jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Republican leaders have threatened to approve Mr. Obama’s proposal to extend payroll tax cuts only if he approves the Keystone pipeline too.
The president warned Republican lawmakers not to hold hostage the payroll tax cut or any other legislation.
“Any effort to try to tie Keystone to the payroll tax cut, I will reject," he said.
Mr. Obama also said he is pleased that Canada has expressed an interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a nine-country trade group. Japan and Mexico have also shown interest in joining the group.