updated 1/12/2007 8:37:25 PM ET 2007-01-13T01:37:25

Canada unveiled a major border security initiative Friday, saying it would spend more than C$432 million (US$368 million) over the next five years to protect its border from terrorist, economic and environmental threats.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day made the announcement on Friday at the Canada-U.S. border crossing between Windsor and Detroit, where one-third of the C$1.9 billion (US$1.6 billion) in daily trade between the North American neighbors crosses over the Ambassador Bridge or in tunnels beneath the Detroit River.

"I even sometimes surprise my American friends when I remind them that the trade that comes across the Ambassador Bridge in total is greater than all of the trade that exists between the United States and Japan," Day told a news conference.

Security experts have long criticized the lack of security measures along Canada's side of the 6,435-kilometer (4,000-mile) border with the United States, particularly since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged when he was elected nearly a year ago to strengthen the frontier between the world's largest trading partners, including these new security measures and eventually arming Canada's border guards.

The bulk of the money, C$396 million (US$337 million), is for the eManifest program, which allows for computer-automated risk assessments of cargo shipments before they reach Canada.

The 18,000 trucks that cross the U.S.-Canada border each day, as well as all railroad, air and marine cargo carriers, will eventually be required to file electronic manifests before their shipments arrive. This will allow border service agents to determine in advance whether the cargo, or those who deliver it, should be further screened.

The program was developed in cooperation with U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, launched in 2005 by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin, U.S. President Bush and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Day would not give a precise date of when the electronic manifests would become mandatory at the 119 border crossings.

"There's still going to be that human element at the border, to look at material and talk to the driver, but the amount of time that's going to be saved is going to be significant," he said of the requirement to file electronic manifests in advance of cargo shipments.

Another C$24 million (US$20 million) has been earmarked for business leaders and emergency responders to plan for the immediate resumption of trade across the border in the event of a terrorist attack, medical pandemic or natural disaster.

Perrin Beatty, president of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, said his and other associations would work with governments and emergency response teams on both sides of the border to stage exercises and develop protocols that would get trade moving within hours of an emergency.

"If al-Qaida can damage us, either physically or economically, they win," Beatty told the news conference, referring to Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization. "It would be foolish for us to assume that there will not be any further incidents along the border."

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