United States Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson

Improved trade with U.S. in the works

American ambassador says directive is coming from the top.

The U.S. is looking to streamline trade with Canada, and direction is coming right from the top.

David Jacobson, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, said Friday several initiatives are taking place to smooth trade between the two countries.

He pointed out some efficiencies seem obvious.

For instance, goods that arrive here from overseas is inspected in Canada and the U.S.

“Inspect it once and allow it to move freely,” Jacobson said.  “It’s being driven by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper. Things tend to move faster when they’re being pushed by the boss.”

Jacobson addressed a crowd of about 800 people at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel Friday, at the Building Bridges to Prosperity Symposium.

He stressed the importance of improving both the way goods are moved and enhancing the security.

Canada and the U.S. trade more than $1 trillion in goods annually, he said. Trade with B.C. alone, exceeded all trade with Italy last year and almost doubled that of Ireland.

As important as that relationship is, he said, it’s important to have “layered security” protecting both countries.

By that, he said, inspections can move back away from the border so that access to each country isn’t so jammed.

“The border is not the first line of defense, it’s the last,” Jacobson said.

He said it’s only a “tyranny of small differences” that are impeding change.

“It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to deliver real results,” he said.

“One of the reasons that it’s so important that the president and the prime minister are leading this effort, is that when somebody says `you don’t understand, this is not how we do it’, then we can say `what is it about the views of the president or the prime minister that you don’t understand?’ “

How long the changes will take are not known right now.

“This is not everything happening at once, you’re going to see a process,” Jacobson said. “Some of the things are going to be a matter of months, and some of the things may take much longer.”

The difference this time is that everyone is paddling in the same direction.

“Everybody is very committed this time to making sure we do a better job than some of the exercises in the past,” he said.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said in her introduction that improved access to U.S. trade is critical, and she pointed out there have been some successes, such as dealing with “Buy American” protectionist policies.

“We’ve come a long way,” she said.

@diakiw