The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 9, 2002

Remarks by the President and Prime Minister Chretien on U.S. - Canada Smart Borders
Ambassador Bridge
Detroit, Michigan

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President's Remarks
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11:41 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Thanks. Thank you, all. Thank you for joining us today. It's a pleasure to be back in Detroit -- just across the river from Windsor -- to reaffirm a special relationship, an important relationship, and to address a common challenge. America and Canada face new threats to our security. It's the new reality of the 21st century, and we can't forget that.

And some of those threats must be stopped at our borders. This great and peaceful border must be open to business, must be open to people -- and it's got to be closed to terrorists and criminals. (Applause.)

And so today we're taking two steps to turn this vision into reality. I appreciate so very much the Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, for joining us here. He has been a steadfast friend. I really enjoy dealing with him on a personal basis. He's a plain-spoken fellow, with a good sense of humor. Probably won't go too good up here in Canada, but he'd be a great Texan. (Laughter and applause.)

I appreciate Tom Ridge joining us. Tom is my advisor for Homeland Security, former governor of Pennsylvania. I want to thank Tom for working hard. (Applause.) With the Deputy Prime Minister John Manley from Canada, who both these two men work hard to (applause).

The Prime Minister and I, of course, get the credit if it goes well. (Laughter.) They get the blame if it doesn't. (Laughter.) The truth of the matter is they did a lot of the work, and I want to thank both of you men for working hard for what's best for our countries.

I appreciate so very much the members of our congressional delegation who have shown up here. Congressman Joe Knollenberg, Carolyn Kilpatrick. I had a chance to say hello to Congresswoman Kilpatrick's little boy at the airport. (Laughter.) He's doing a fine job as the mayor of Detroit. I know she's proud of what a fine job he is doing.

I want to appreciate very much Congressman John Conyers as well, and Sander Levin and Nick Smith from the both Republicans and Democrats, who share deep concern about our border and what transpires here.

So I thank the members of Congress for coming today.

I also appreciate so very much our ambassador from Canada, Paul Cellucci, my close friend, for being here as well. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for coming. (Applause.)

I want to thank Robert Bonner of the Customs, U.S. Customs, for being here. And Rob Wright, who's the Commissioner of Canadian Customs. Thank you both for coming. (Applause.)

I appreciate Jim Ziglar so very much, the head of our INS, for being here. He's got a tough job and he's handling his job in fine fashion. Jim, I want to thank you for your service to the country.

I appreciate very much our friend, the governor from Michigan, John Engler, for introducing me. (Applause.) Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus is with us today. Lieutenant Governor, thanks for coming. (Applause.) And Candice Miller, the Michigan Secretary of State, is here, as well. And I want to appreciate all the officials for coming. (Applause.)

This bridge right here is a symbol of the close and unique relationship -- close and unique relationship -- between our two nations. This single bridge carries more trade than any other border crossing on this continent. And that's saying a lot. This is a -- (applause) -- this is an active bridge. Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, more than 500,000 people, and over a billion dollars worth of goods cross the U.S.-Canadian border every day.

The ties of trade and travel and family between America and Canada are closer than ever. And our countries are better for it. Yet, nearly a year ago, we saw the terrorists, cold-blooded killers, using our openness, the openness of our societies against us. We were awakened to threats that can arrive across our borders. We realized, at least in our country, that we had become a battlefield. And we've got to confront those threats. We have no choice but to confront the threats head-on, while we preserve the freedom and the openness of our societies.

We have hard working inspectors at this border, and I want to thank all the folks who work hard to expedite the traffic here. (Applause.)

I believe my job is to -- at least on the American side, is to make sure that you're able to do your jobs more effectively, and to figure out how to use technologies and the system necessary so that you can do your job in a better fashion. You see, we want our inspectors to be able to focus on the greatest risks, not on legitimate trade and travel. We want their time focused on stopping terror, criminality. We've got to recognize that inspections create bottlenecks on both sides of this bridge. That's one of the realities. When you start looking closer, you're going to start creating bottlenecks, and that's not good. It's not good for families that want to be together, it's not good for trade and traffic. And so we've got to reduce the backups, and at the same time strengthen our mutual security.

So today, Canada and the United States are launching what we call the FAST, which stands for Free and Secure Trade. The Prime Minister and I got to see the FAST system in operation. It says that American and Canadian companies can register their goods and their trucks and their drivers with their governments and then border inspectors can review this information up to an hour prior to arrival. Once the agents have determined the safety of each shipment, the trucks can cross in special lanes, using tested technology, technology that the Prime Minister and I just saw. Border inspectors will be able to instantly verify the contents and identify each truck as it pulls up. Stop times will be reduced from a few minutes to seconds, and that's important.

We're also announcing a second initiative for safer and smarter borders that will benefit individual travelers. We're dramatically expanding a program to issue special photo identifications to people who are screened to ensure they are not security threats to either country. These cards entitle people to travel across the border in dedicated lanes, where there will be little or no delay for inspections. We're trying to help people cross the borders as quickly as possible. (Applause.)

This kind of program for simplifying travel for thousands of people who regularly cross the border is now in place in Washington, Washington State, and British Columbia. And so, starting today, we're launching the program here in Detroit, accepting applications from Americans and Canadians who want to travel across the border in faster fashion.

With these two initiatives, we'll ensure faster movement of legal, low risk goods and faster travel for people across our borders. And we'll be able to better enhance security. Our inspectors will spend less time inspecting law abiding citizens and more time inspecting those who may harm us.

We're doing everything we can here in America to protect our homeland. Along with Canada, we've got some of the finest troops in the world hunting down the al Qaeda killers in Afghanistan, hunting them down one at a time, to make sure we can better secure our respective countries.

And at home I've asked our Congress to join with me to set up a Department of Homeland Security so that we can do a better job on our borders, a better job with our first responders. I do not need a bunch of rules and regulations trying to micromanage the process. (Applause.) I want the ability to be able to look the American people in the eye and say, I'm doing everything -- or we're doing everything we can to protect you.

And so the Senate, the United States Senate must not focus on narrow, special interests, but must focus on the security of the American people. (Applause.)

And so I'm -- Mr. Prime Minister, this country is doing everything we can to address a common problem, and you need to know, sir, that we're determined and we're patient and we're resolved to win this war against these terrorists, because, like you, we love freedom. We value our freedoms. We want to leave a legacy of freedom behind for our children and our grandchildren.

It's now my honor to welcome to the podium a friend, a strong leader, the Prime Minister of our important neighbor, Jean Chretien. (Applause.)

THE PRIME MINISTER: As we say in English, merci beaucoup, Messieur le Presidente. (Laughter.) Governor Engler, Governor Ridge, Deputy Minister Manley, Minister Whelan, Ambassadors, Congressmen, Members of Parliament, madams and messieurs.

I want to tell you Governor that we don't share only the university. You're going into retirement (laughter) and I'm going in retirement. (Laughter.) You, you're forced by the Constitution, and I am forced by my wife. (Laughter and applause.) Mr. President, I see in Canada that the country is run by women. The Governor General is a woman. The Chief Justice is a woman, and my wife is a woman. (Laughter and applause.)

But I am delighted to be here with you, Mr. President, because it's a great occasion. A short distance from here is the Ambassador Bridge. It spans two great cities, Detroit and Windsor, two great peoples, and two great nations. More than a feat of architecture and construction, the bridge is a symbol of the most open bilateral relationship in the world, a relationship based on shared values of freedom and human dignity, a model to the world of civility and respect. (Applause.) And, in the context of globalization, a guide to how nations can develop strong friendships while retaining distinct identities.

Across the longest undefended border in the world, we have built by far the largest two-way trading relationship with a value of $475 billion U.S. a year. More than a $1.3 billion a day of trade between our two nations. More than 200 million crossings of the 49th Parallel take place every year. Eighty-five percent of Canadian exports go to the United States, and 23 percent of all American exports come to Canada. In 2000, Canada bought more U.S. goods than all 15 countries of the European Union combined, and three times as much as Japan.

Thirty-eight U.S. states count Canada as their largest export market. The Ambassador Bridge is the fast lane for Canada-U.S. trade. Twenty-five percent of our two-way trade, or $120 billion U.S. travels the bridge; 7,000 trucks cross it every day. The value of the trade that crosses this bridge exceeds all of U.S. trade with Japan.

One year ago, our share value were attacked in an unthinkable way. For most of our history, we in North America, have lived in peace, untouched by attack -- 9/11 changed that. And it's changed the world. That terrible day will live forever as a monument to the worst in human spirit, but the days since will long be remembered as a monument to the very best.

I would like to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, for the skill and resolve you showed in rallying the world against the terror network of al Qaeda. (Applause.) The American people can be proud of what you have accomplished in their name. And the Canadian people are deeply proud that our Armed Forces have fought side by side in defense of justice and freedom with American soldiers in Afghanistan. (Applause.)

Mr. President, you and I met at the White House less than two weeks after 9/11. We understood the urgent need to act, but also the fact that our people will never, never consent to live life looking over their shoulders in fear. (Applause.) That they will insist on living according to our values of freedom and openness, not on terms dictated from the shadows. We want to ensure that the threat of terror will not undermine the security of our citizens or hold our economies hostage.

Both of our nations have taken forceful action in our own ways to enhance the security of our people. In Canada, we have passed strong antiterrorism laws; state-of-the-art security technologies are being quickly brought on-line. We recognized that we could create a smart border, one that was not only more secure, but more efficient for trade, to permit our businesses to get back to business; to allow our nurses, engineers and computer technicians to provide their services, and our students to attend classes; to let our communities continue planning a shared future together, secure in the knowledge that the border welcomes legitimate trade and travelers.

The Windsor-Detroit Gateway has figured prominently in our plans. As a sign of the high priority we place on this goal, we assigned two very able public servants the task of turning our commitment into action -- Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, and Governor Tom Ridge. And I compliment them for a job very well done. (Applause.) They have made extraordinary progress building the smart border for the 21st century, a border that is open for business, but closed to terrorists.

With their signing last December of the Smart Border Declaration, our governments began implementing an aggressive and sweeping 30-point action plan. The vast majority of the people who cross our border pose no risk to either country. To ensure that such low risk individuals are able to travel with a minimum of delay, we implemented and are expanding the NEXUS pre-screening program at our land border crossing.

NEXUS provides FAST lanes for pre-approved travelers and is already running at seven border -- several border crossings. To speed things up at our busiest border crossings, we are opening the NEXUS Enrollment Center here in Detroit. The Free and Secure Trade, or FAST, program provides similar benefits for shipments of low risk goods. While enhancing security, FAST will make many cross-border commercial shipments simpler, cheaper, and subject to fewer delays.

Ladies and gentlemen, madams and messieurs, both Canadians and Americans understand that the goal of the terrorists is not to conquer us by force of arms, but by force of terror, to intimidate us into retreating from our openness, and to abandon the pillars of prosperity and freedom which support our quality of life.

But, Mr. President, you and I know that freedom freedom is a very, very stubborn thing, and that it will prevail. On Wednesday, we will mark the solemn anniversary of a terrible day. But let us celebrate today together the ingenuity and resolve that Canada and the United States have shown to ensure that our people can get on with their daily lives and our business can get on with business, free from fear and security.

Vive les Etats-Unis and vive le Canada.


END 12:02 P.M. EDT

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