July 29th, 2014
The Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) was created in 1988 by a group of legislators who sought to establish a collaborative, region wide organization to address common issues, particularly those that cross state, provincial, and national borders. Today PNWER consists of policy makers, private sector stakeholders, indigenous tribes, and academic professionals from 5 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces and territories. Because PNWER encompasses multiple jurisdictions, the participation of government at multiple scales spans from local representatives, to national leaders.
At PNWER’s 2014 annual summit, a number of pressing issues were addressed, including streamlining the border, development of liquefied natural gas, renewal of the Columbia River Treaty, cross-border livestock health, and governance of the arctic region. The U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, and the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, participated jointly in a roundtable discussion on border issues between the two countries.
After identifying issues affecting the region, a number of innovative and collaborative cross-border efforts were discussed, including:
· Improving cross border mobility for workers
· Streamlining the ‘two nation vacation’ for foreign visitors to the U.S. and Canada
· Undertaking innovative pilot projects to improve mobility between the U.S. and Canada
· Expanding the use of NEXUS and other trusted traveller concepts
The BPRI presented recommendations on border policy issues related to tourism and cross border traffic. BPRI Director Don Alper proposed a ‘supply chain concept’ be applied to international travellers, to shift security concerns away from a narrow focus on the border, to a more comprehensive approach of information sharing between private sector tourism operators and government. Associate Director Laurie Trautman suggested an innovative pilot project be conducted at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, which would identify the most frequent Canadian border crossers and supply them with radio frequency enabled identification cards (RFID), thereby reducing the time it takes for border patrol agents to process individual vehicles resulting in reduced wait times.