Past the 49th Parallel: An Evaluation of the Beyong the Border Agreements

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In 2011, two different agreements between Canada and the US were announced to address this apparent conflict between security and economics at the border: the “Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan” (PSEC) and the “Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Action Plan” (RCC). When taken together, both documents fall under the broader label of the “Beyond the Border Joint Action Plan” (BTB). PSEC proposes joint actions designed to address border security and screening procedures, and to crack down on threats such as narcotics trafficking or terrorism. The RCC will focus on aligning regulations to reduce the “tyranny of small differences” that raise the costs of doing business for firms that trade across the Canada/ US border (Robertson, 2012, p. 34). Together, these agreements are designed to increase the security that both countries enjoy while simultaneously leading to increased economic competitiveness and growth. What is not immediately clear is whether or not PSEC and the RCC are significant milestones towards both countries actually reaching these goals. This capstone project will therefore answer the following research question: How significant are the economic and security effects of the Beyond the Border action plans? The project will begin with a brief background on past border policies since 2001. In order to effectively answer the research question, the effects that that both PSEC and the RCC have on Canada/ US border policies will be subdivided into two very broad categories: economic, and security. When measuring the potential economic impact of the documents, an analysis will focus on which industries of the Canadian economy will be affected by the regulatory alignment efforts of the RCC and how large and important these industries are to Canada’s economic prosperity. In addition to measuring the specific industries that will be affected by the RCC, we can measure how PSEC will affect trade across the 49th parallel more generally. This can be done by estimating the costs of having different regulations on either side of the border, or by examining the costs to firms of having to wait in long lineups to cross the border. While it is still too early to measure the direct effects of these two agreements on Canada/US trade flows, these costs give an idea of the potential economic benefits of reducing the “thickening” of the border. The higher the costs that the current border policy imposes, the higher the potential for PSEC to reduce these costs and be economically significant. After analyzing the economic effects of the Beyond the Border agreements, the paper will focus on the significance of PSEC to achieving security related objectives. This analysis will primarily be qualitative in nature, due to the difficulty of trying to measure a concept like security. By shifting the Canada/ US security focus away from our shared border and more towards a continental security model, we see both governments trying to “push the border out” to secure the North American continent as a whole. While this may lead to efficiencies in security procedures, this is dependent on a high degree of trust and cooperation at multiple levels of government in order to actually work. By examining patterns that are apparent within PSEC proposals, such as a focus on cooperation or shifting to higher risk targets, we can determine how significantly PSEC will change border security efforts. The final section of the capstone project will address potential problems that could interfere with the implementation of the Beyond the Border action plans. For example, some potential flaws that could limit or derail the implementation of the Beyond the Border plan could be the perceived potential of a gradual attrition of Canadian sovereignty, a lack of executive follow through as bureaucratic agencies attempt to harmonize regulations, privacy concerns regarding information sharing, constitutional and jurisdictional conflicts between the federal and provincial governments or an overwhelming of the legislative systems as the Beyond the Border agreements are implemented. Before we can actually determine how significant the BTB agreements are, we have to understand some past policy initiatives and challenges that Canadians and Americans have faced. Only by viewing BTB in the context of past initiatives designed to address both Canadian trade concerns and American security assessments, can we understand if it is a dramatic shift from past initiatives or if it is building on past policies.
Mallany, Sean. (2012). Past the 49th Parallel: An Evaluation of the Beyong the Border Agreements ( Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from