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Each year, more than $130 billion in trade crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont. and Detroit. (CBC)

International shippers and receivers in Windsor praised changes to border security announced Wednesday by the Canadian and U.S. governments.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama revealed in Washington several changes designed to speed up legitimate trade and travel, improve security in North America, and align regulatory approaches between the two countries.

'Any harmonization or synchronization of the governments and their processes ... will help us.'— Steve Ondejko, On Freight Logistics

"Any harmonization or synchronization of the governments and their processes, whether it's Canada, the U.S. or Mexico, will help us in closing that supply chain, making sure all the links work together," said Steve Ondejko, president of On Freight Logistics.

On Wednesday, Ondejko's company was unloading seat covers used in Chrysler minivans. His company moves an average of $5 million in freight each day.

Each year, $130 billion in trade crosses Windsor's Ambassador Bridge. That's nearly one third of all trade between Canada and the U.S.

"Any delay creates a problem for the supply chain," Ondejko said. "The supply chain really has to work well together."

Action plans

The joint announcement included a pair of action plans.

One focused on international trade.

The leaders contend the action plan on regulatory co-operation will help reduce barriers to trade, lower costs for consumers and business, and create economic opportunities on both sides of the border.

'The sharing of information is a good thing overall for anybody in the trade and supply chain.'— Debbie Dent, Border Connect Inc.

Changes include improvements to the The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program and a "trusted shipper lane" at border crossings. The trusted shipper program would allow expedited processing for commercial carriers who have completed background checks and fulfil certain eligibility requirements.

"Even before the announcement [Wednesday] the sharing of information in the advance of arrivals was already [happening]," said Debbie Dent, manager of carrier consulting services at Border Connect Inc.  "The sharing of information is a good thing overall for anybody in the trade and supply chain."

Dent said low-risk cargo already easily passes through the border, and the faster it can be done, the better.

"Having dedicated lanes for commercial traffic is needed," Dent said.

The second action plan focused on perimeter security and economic competitiveness.

It includes four areas of co-operation:

  • addressing threats early
  • facilitating trade, economic growth and jobs
  • integrating cross-border law enforcement
  • improving critical infrastructure and cyber-security
International crossings in October

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel:

Cars: 324,709

Trucks: 3,433

Ambassador Bridge:

Cars: 400,667

Trucks: 224,792

Source: Public Border Operations Association

Local MP skeptical

The plan includes establishing wait time service levels and posting wait times on the internet so truckers and others can better plan their border crossings.

Windsor-West MP Brian Masse wants the government to offer proof the new changes will lower wait times at the border.

He made the plea during question period in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

According to the Public Border Operations Association, 324,709 passenger cars crossed through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel in October. Downriver at the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge, 400,667 crossed in the same month.

Traffic at the bridge was down slightly, compared to the same month last year. At the tunnel, traffic increased by nearly 15,000 vehicles in the same time period.

 

With files from Allison Johnson