Bush, Chretien tout border security
Leaders say delays will be reduced
DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, speaking Monday in the shadow of a bridge that symbolizes the close relationship between the United States and Canada, touted tough, high-tech border programs designed to bolster security and speed commerce.
Also, both men met privately in a session in which Bush was to press his case that Iraq's Saddam Hussein regime should be removed from power. Chretien, a key U.S. ally, has been skeptical about a military strike, and Bush has been meeting and speaking to world leaders in an attempt to build support for his stance on Iraq.
In a ceremony at the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, the men delivered speeches discussing border security, but did not mention Iraq or their meeting in their public remarks.
"This bridge right here is a symbol of the 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," Bush said.
Chretien called the Ambassador Bridge "the fast lane for Canada-U.S. trade. Twenty-five percent of our two-way trade, or 120 billion U.S. dollars, travels the bridge; seven thousand trucks cross it every day. The value of the trade that crosses this bridge exceeds all of U.S. trade with Japan."
Bush announced the launching of two programs that he said would enable inspectors to "spend less time inspecting law-abiding citizens and more time inspecting those who may harm us."
One is the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program, an effort that the leaders said would make traffic along the border more efficient. The other is a photo ID plan.
The FAST program, as outlined by Bush, allows American and Canadian companies to register their goods, trucks and drivers with their respective governments in advance.
"Border inspectors can review this information up to an hour prior to arrival," Bush said. "And once the agents have determined the safety of each shipment, the trucks can cross in special lanes."
Added Bush, "Stop times will be reduced from a few minutes to seconds, and that's important."
The president also announced the expansion of a program that would "issue special photo identifications to people who are screened to ensure they are not security threats to either country."
Chretien said the United States and Canada have been working especially close on border security since both governments signed in December what's called the "Smart Border Declaration."
The program includes joint counter-terrorism training exercises, management of refugee and asylum claims, visa policy coordination, and sharing information on high-risk travelers.
"The vast majority of the people who cross our border pose no risk to either country," Chretien said, adding that a pre-screening program to accommodate such individuals is being expanded.
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