Improving U.S.-Canadian Border Key to Detroit Region’s Economic Success

Detroit Regional Chamber Partners with Brookings Institution on Expansive, New Study Outlining How to Improve the U.S-Canadian Border

DETROIT, July 14, 2009 – Today the Detroit Regional Chamber, along with the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, unveiled a new report that provides a detailed framework for enhancing operations and trade at the border crossings between the U.S. and Canada. The findings include specific border policy recommendations for President Barak Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to consider as they work towards strengthening bilateral economic and security ties. The report, titled “Toward a New Frontier: Improving the U.S. Canadian Border,” offers a blueprint for both governments to accelerate commerce and spur innovation while ensuring a safe border. The Chamber’s participation with this initiative is part of its broader efforts to stimulate the economy and grow jobs in Southeast Michigan.

“It is no secret the northern border is an indispensable component of the Detroit Region’s economic viability and long-term prosperity,” said Richard E. Blouse, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “That is why the Chamber is taking a leadership position on several fronts, including collaborating with Brookings and others on this report, to ensure public officials understand the different needs of the northern and southern borders, develop policies that address these unique needs and to give local authorities the autonomy they need to allow for an open and safe border between the U.S. and Canada.”

The study was authored by Christopher Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and U.S.-Canadian policy expert. The report’s main conclusion is a more decentralized, regional approach to border trade traffic and security issues. Sands, with input from the Chamber, Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and other organizations, offered the following policy recommendations:

Recognize unique differences between Canadian and Mexican borders and adopt customized policies for each border;

  • Empower local federal officials to have greater lateral communication and resource-sharing independent of unnecessary Washington D.C. interference;
  • Emulate the 30-point U.S. Canada Smart Border Action plan locally;
  • Create and engage a state-level Homeland Security Network;
  • Ensure border personnel evaluations include assessing efforts to develop positive relationships with local governments and stakeholders;
  • Adopt a Total Quality Management (TQM) model of continuous process improvement at the border;
  • Authorize funds for a Border Security Pilot Project Challenge Fund to test new ideas;
  • Reform but do not abandon the Security and Prosperity Partnership;
  • Form a U.S.-Canada or North American Joint Infrastructure Planning Commission.

“The U.S.-Canada bi-national economic relationship is the largest on earth,” said report author Christopher Sands, “Twenty percent of U.S. exports are to our neighbors in Canada, and it is the largest export market for 39 of our 50 states. Policies and practices that speed the transit of people, goods and services across the border help maintain and create jobs, and they are enormously important to the global economic competitive position of both the U.S. and Canada. The auto industry in particular faces added costs at the border that must be addressed as governments work to revitalize manufacturing and our communities.”

The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program underwrote the U.S.-Canadian border study as part of its mission to provide decision makers with cutting-edge research and policy ideas for improving the health and prosperity of cities and metropolitan areas.  International commerce is an integral part of urban and suburban economies in the U.S., especially in the Midwest.

“The economic impact of border policies is uniquely felt in the states of the industrial Midwest and Great Lakes,” says John Austin of Michigan, Co-director of Brookings Institution’s Great Lakes Economic Initiative. “With 39 percent of total U.S. and Canada exports emanating from industries centered in the Great Lakes states and provinces-dependent on ‘just-in-time’ delivery and rapid flows of people and products-we have the most at stake for a better-functioning border.”

The Chamber, along with its Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition and TranslinkeD initiatives, is a strong advocate for improving trade and security at U.S.-Canadian border.  It has been, and will continue to be, an effective voice for streamlining and improving border regulations and policies with such programs as Michigan’s Enhanced Drivers License and the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

“Through our political advocacy efforts, we are urging officials in Washington D.C. and Ottawa to quickly implement the recommendations in this report. It is integral to the Chamber’s long-term strategy to transform Detroit into a global logistics hub,” continued Blouse.

To view the entire report, visit

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

With over 20,000 members, the Detroit Regional Chamber is the largest chamber of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission is carried out through business attraction efforts, public policy advocacy, strategic partnerships and quality products and services for members.

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