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UPDATE: Harper signs North American perimeter declaration at White House

A media conference with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama began at 3:25 pm ET this afternoon. They both spoke about a new border security declaration that they signed today.

Obama made general comments that an action plan will be developed quickly, ‘outdated regulations’ will be removed, and that ‘a new council’ will be created. He then moved on to make comments about the situation in Egypt.

For his part, Harper framed the agreement as more than just a border security declaration, he called it ‘a declaration of our relations with the United States’. He emphasized that Canada is the biggest supplier of energy to the United States. And he again stated that any threat to the United States is a threat to Canada.

Harper said the border plan is intended to ‘keep out terrorists and criminals’, ‘simplify regulations that hinder trade’, have ‘consistent inspection measures’, and to have ‘better management of our border’ not ‘eliminate the border’.

Harper also noted that ‘a lot remains to be done’ that this declaration is ‘just a starting point’.

The Council of Canadians has raised concerns that this declaration was reportedly negotiated in secret for six months with involvement from business groups, but not Parliament nor public interest groups. The media statements today were sparse on details, but many concerns have already been raised about the implications of sharing security information with the US Department of Homeland Security, the loss of sovereignty and trade-offs made to come to this agreement, and the degree to which any of the common measures being discussed will address the so-called ‘thickening’ of the border.

Immediately following the media conference Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew did an interview with Global TV and I have just completed an interview with a Montreal radio station.