WASHINGTON - Calling smarter border management pivotal to U.S. competitiveness, President Barack Obama said he and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed Friday on steps to improve border security and expand their economies.
Those measures include better screening, use of new technologies, sharing information among law enforcement agencies and identifying potential threats early. Both countries also agreed to get rid of regulations that hinder trade and job creation.
Canada is the United States' largest trading partner, with more than $1 billion in goods crossing the border every day.
"Smarter border management is key to our competitiveness, our job creation and my goal of doubling U.S. exports," Obama said at a White House news conference alongside Harper after the two emerged from back-to-back meetings in the Oval Office.
"Simpler rules lead to lower costs for business and consumers and ultimately to more jobs," added Harper, who spoke in both English and French. The United States also is Canada's major export market, he said.
Asked how much sovereignty and privacy Canadians will sacrifice for the sake of a more open border and a more integrated economy, Obama acknowledged that the countries "are not going to match up perfectly on every measure." But he said both benefit from an open border.
"The free flow of goods and services results in huge economic benefits for both sides," Obama said, speaking hours after his government reported that U.S. unemployment last month had dropped to 9 percent, from 9.4 percent, even though just a net of 36,000 jobs had been created.
Harper said it's in his country's interest to work with the United States on securing their shared border and ensuring that people and goods can move across it as safely and openly as possible.
"That is what we're trying to achieve here," he said.