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U.S., Canada Unveil New Measures to Facilitate Trade
Dec 8,2011 10:11CST
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U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled new measures with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to facilitate trade and travel between the two neighbors.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Declaring job creation on his highest priority, U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled new measures with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to facilitate trade and travel between the two neighbors, who are each other's biggest trading partner.

Appearing from his talks with Harper at the White House, Obama told reporters that "Our focus today is on our highest priority, and my top priority as president, that's creating jobs faster and growing the economy faster."

"And in this mission, Canada has a special role to play," he added, noting that Canada is U.S.' single largest trading partner and its top export market, supporting some 1.7 million "good- paying" American jobs.

He said that through new regulatory coordination efforts, "We' re going to make it easier to conduct the trade and travel that creates jobs, and we're going to make it harder for those who do us harm and threaten our security."

"Because of old systems and heavy congestion, it still takes too many products too long to cross the borders," he explained. " And for every business, either Canadian or American, time is money. "

For his part, Harper said the agreements he reached with Obama "create a new, modern border for a new century" and hailed them as "the most significant steps" in bilateral relations since NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement that joins markets of the U. S., Canada and Mexico and entered into force in 1994.

According to the White House, total trade and investment between the U.S. and Canada topped 1.1 trillion U.S. dollars in 2010, and U.S. exports to Canada grew more than to the rest of the world.

Obama, who is seeking reelection in 2012, had pledged to double U.S. exports by 2014.

Security measures put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States have added red tape and logjams on the borders, raising concerns from business groups in both countries.

In their February meeting in Washington, Obama and Harper agreed to a new approach to U.S. and Canadian security that they said would help boost trade by reducing logjams at the border.

Under the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council Action Plan, unveiled in the two leaders' latest meeting, the two countries will promote transparency, efficiency, and the "free and secure" flow of people and trade across the borders.

"Measures to deal with criminal and terrorist threats can thicken the border, hindering our efforts to create jobs and growth," Harper said. "Today, our two governments are taking practical steps to reverse that direction."

"Today's agreement will yield lasting benefits to travelers, traders, manufacturers, in fact everybody whose legitimate business or pleasure takes them across the border," he added.

"So we're going to improve our infrastructure, we're going to introduce new technologies, we're going to improve cargo security and screening -- all designed to make it easier for our companies to do business and create jobs," Obama said.

He said efforts will be made to get rid of "outdated, unjustified regulations that stifle trade and job creation," in particular in sectors like the auto industry.

On the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to connect oil sands from western Canada to refineries around Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, Obama said that he assured Harper that "We will have a very vigorous process to work through that issue."

The U.S. State Department decided last month to delay a final decision until the first quarter of 2013, as the 7-billion-dollars pipeline applied by TransCanada has generated intense opposition from environmentalists as well as public officials in the United States, who claim that it threatens sensitive lands and underground water supplies along its route.

The Canadian government has pressed Obama to approve the 1,700- mile (2,720 km) pipeline.

Recognizing the pipeline "is very important" to Canada, Obama said he would "reject" any effort by congressional Republicans to tie the pipeline issue to the extension of payroll tax cut.

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