updated 6/27/2005 4:56:54 PM ET 2005-06-27T20:56:54

The United States, Canada and Mexico pledged Monday to shore up security by integrating their terrorist watchlists and beefing up joint protection of borders and bridges.

At the same time, they promised to expand what is already the world’s largest trading partnership by developing a single program to facilitate the free flow of people and goods across their shared borders.

“We are three countries, three friends living in the same neighborhood, so we have a common interest in our mutual security and our mutual prosperity,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a news conference in Ottawa after he and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts unveiled their list of targets and initiatives.

“We want to confront external threats; we want to prevent and respond to threats to North America and we want to facilitate the flow of traffic across our borders,” Chertoff said. “The more secure our region is, the more our prosperity will flourish.”

300 proposals considered
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said 300 proposals were under review to ensure security and the free flow of North American trade and harmonize the screening of dangerous people or cargo.

“The proposals today will go a long way toward protecting North America, while maintaining each country’s sovereignty,” she said.

Monday’s session follows the March 23 formation of a Security and Prosperity Partnership initiative announced by President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Mexican President Vicente Fox after their meeting in Waco, Texas.

The three leaders, who have sought to improve coordination since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, asked their top security and trade ministers to report back within 90 days on initiatives to enhance security and promote the economic well-being of their citizens.

Some other proposals include:

  • Coordinating programs to ensure governments are prepared for large-scale emergencies or terrorist attacks;
  • Joint protection of critical cross-border infrastructure, such as the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River and facilitates one-fourth of the daily $1.4 billion in trade between Canada and the United States;
  • Strengthening approaches to maritime and aviation security;
  • Establishing a second site for a Canada-U.S. pilot project that would check cargo and passengers before they cross the border;
  • And creating a single, integrated program to allow “trusted travelers” who frequent the borders to travel quickly by air, land and sea.

Anti-piracy efforts
On the economic front, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, David Emerson and Carlos Abascal, said they would develop a coordinated strategy to combat counterfeiting and piracy by the end of next year; create more regulatory consistency and further integrate their automobile and steel industries; and relax rules that will allow for an additional $25 billion worth of duty free goods.

Gutierrez said the United States, Canada and Mexico have a trading relationship worth more than $700 billion a year; an increase of 88 percent between 1993 and 2003.

“So we have a lot of jobs and a lot of prosperity tied to this very important trading relationship,” Gutierrez said, but added: “No market economy can thrive without safety and security for its people. The threats we face require seamless cooperation that extends beyond our borders.”

Three countries, one front
Emerson said the three nations must stand as one powerful trading block against other growing economies. North America accounts for one-third of the world’s gross domestic product and he said investors would continue to look toward North America only if it is competitive.

“The rest of the world has not been standing still — far from it,” Emerson said. “A booming China is changing the competitive landscape and causing the reconfiguration of global supply chains. India is not far behind; the European Union, despite recent setbacks, will continue to get bigger and stronger.”

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