DEAUVILLE, France – Canada and the United States will have a plan for perimeter security in North America by the summer, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
Harper met U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of broader G8 discussions this week in the seaside resort of Deauville, France.
“The president and I are committed to pursuing a perimeter approach to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services between our two countries,” Harper said in a statement following the meeting.
“We are pleased that discussions are on track, and we expect to have an ambitious joint action plan ready this summer following public consultations.”
Neither the scope of the plan nor the subject of the public consultations was immediately clear.
Work on the pact, which aims to control who enters and leaves the North American continent in a consistent manner, began in earnest in February.
It would allow officials to ease security at the Canada-U.S. border, paving the way for a return to more free-flowing passage of vehicles and cargo.
Harper and Obama also discussed ways to erase regulatory differences that slow down trade.
Harper’s meeting with Obama was among five bilateral discussions he held Thursday to advance Canada’s trade and foreign policy agenda. Newly minted Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was also at the table.
Harper also met British Prime Minister David Cameron, the leaders of the European Council and European Commission and the prime minister of Japan.
While talks on the sidelines centred on trade, the leaders are focusing on unrest in the Middle East and North Africa at their main working dinner Thursday night.
The final summit declaration is expected to be a road map to bring greater stability to the region, especially Egypt and Tunisia. The leaders of those countries meet G8 leaders Friday.
The agreement is billed as similar to the massive Marshall Plan, which saw billions of dollars in U.S. aid poured into Europe to help rebuild its economies and institutions after the Second World War.
While the U.S., U.K. and EU have pledged direct bilateral assistance to countries in the region, the Harper government has maintained any money should flow through existing multilateral institutions.
“It’s not exclusively about financial assistance,” said a senior government official, speaking on background.
“The partnership we want to have with (Middle East and North African) countries is about governance, it’s about economic development, it’s about economic reform and democratic reform in these countries.”