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Open borders top priority says US Consul General



In Whistler for a fact-finding visit before G8 foreign ministers meet, Hugo Llorens says heightened border security is here to stay

Keeping border traffic moving smoothly is a top priority for government officials says Vancouver’s US Consul General Hugo Llorens.

"Governments are really rolling up their sleeves and working on border issues," said Llorens, who was in Whistler recently as part of an advance information gathering team for the upcoming meeting of the G8 foreign ministers June 12 and 13.

"We have a golden opportunity to create a real 21 st century border.

"Both governments are very mindful of the need to make sure that we work together to make our border a kind of main street rather than some kind of wall."

Each year about 200 million people cross the Canada-USA border and $550 billion dollars in trade is done.

B.C is one of America’s top 10 trading partners, said Llorens, so there is a deep understanding of how important it is to keep the border working smoothly.

But there is no doubt things have changed since the terrorist attacks Sept.11 on the US.

"Post Sept.11 is really a new-world," he said.

"Security is extremely tight.

"Obviously heightened security prevention is here to stay but governments have made a real effort to deal with the situation.

"But if the US and Canada build a wall along the border terrorists win."

Llorens admits that what the US calls its northern border has always been starved of funds. Money has instead been funnelled to the border with Mexico.

But Sept. 11 has changed that too and the US northern border is now a target for more funds and staff.

New accords have be drawn up between Canada and the US outlining the use of cutting-edge technology to help keep the border secure. There are also plans to share intelligence and take part in joint operations, and methods to keep goods moving smoothly between the two nations.

"We want to make sure the border is secure heading both north and south," said Llorens.

"But at the same time it must remain an open and efficient border for the movement of people, goods, services, money and everything else."

One example of this, he said, is the Nexus program, which will replace PACE, a frequent-user system for people crossing the US-Canadian border in B.C.

Nexus will use biometric, or facial recognition software, to screen people as they cross the border. Anyone who applies for a Nexus pass-card will be pre-screened by security agencies.