(Washington) Canada’s ambassador to the United States says the Nexus program, which expedites the passage of “pre-approved, low-risk” travelers at borders, is “held hostage” by American attempts to renegotiate the 20-year-old deal “. .
Updated yesterday at 20:57.
Kirsten Hillman called it “disappointing” and “frustrating” that Canada’s 13 Nexus enrollment centers remain closed, even though those south of the border have been open since April. She blamed the United States directly.
“There is an attempt to unilaterally renegotiate the terms of a 20-year-old program, and the program is being held hostage by these efforts,” said Mr.me Hillman at a day-long summit on border issues between Canada and the United States, held at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.
The tactics used by the United States are “very harsh” and run counter to a long-standing cordial and cooperative relationship with Canada, she continued.
“We all have to recognize that we have to work on the issues, but it will take time and in the meantime we cannot essentially bring the whole program to its knees. »
The Nexus program was developed jointly by the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs and Border Protection. It aims to expedite border crossings, both Canadian and American, of “pre-approved low-risk” travelers. These travelers must register with a center to receive their Nexus certificate.
However, the 13 Nexus registration centers in Canada, staffed by Canadian and American agents, remain closed over a dispute over legal protections for American pre-screening agents working there.
The United States wants its agents working in Canadian registration centers to have the same legal protections as those at land border crossings and airports.
Mme Hillman said that as this dispute drags on, the backlog of listing requests — more than 350,000 — is only growing as pressure to resolve the dispute continues to mount.
In their opinion, a legal opinion suggests that the US requirements cannot be met.
The only way out of the dispute must be for the United States to recognize “that what is being asked for is not easy – and may not be possible,” she said, hinting that the future of Nexus may lie in the game.
“We can’t just let the entire program fall apart on a demand that may not be possible. »
Public Safety Secretary Marco Mendicino has acknowledged that US Customs officers at Nexus centers are not entitled to the same legal protections that officers at airports and land border crossings enjoy.
It is easier to manage the pre-clearance areas at ports of entry because travelers are traveling directly to the United States, unlike the Nexus registration centers in Canada.
Instead, Canadian-American Affairs Council executive director Scotty Greenwood has been arguing for weeks that Canada already has the power to designate and redefine pre-clearance areas.
Justin Trudeau said the two sides were in talks “almost every day” when he asked Ms.me Hillman at an event in Hamilton on Thursday.
“We will continue to work with them to make this smoother and more efficient for people working on both sides of the border,” the Prime Minister commented.
“That’s why trusted travel programs like Nexus are so important and we’re so excited to get them going again. »
The dispute is just the latest rift between Canada and the United States since Joe Biden took control of the White House in 2021. But he is the first to display such undiplomatic rhetoric.
The two countries have exchanged formal grievances on a range of trade-related issues over the past two years. Canada has also aggressively opposed a now-defunct electric vehicle incentive program that would have excluded Canadian-made cars.
However, observers have noted that since the start of the easing of border restrictions imposed during the pandemic, the two countries have begun to take a more asymmetrical approach to the shared border than before.
While Canada dropped its vaccination requirement for foreign visitors earlier this month, the United States has yet to take similar action in relation to Canadians traveling south.
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