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Border problems lead to special webinar

Published by Steve Coleman on September 02, 2011

A growing number of manufacturers are having trouble at the border.

Whether it’s due to more integration between manufacturing and after-sales service or something else entirely, the apparent decision to shore up the ramparts has made it more difficult for travellers to get into the U.S. to do business.

One of the most glaring examples was a British Columbia businessman asked by a customer to stop by a Washington state business that was installing a piece of their equipment, said Jean-Michel Laurin, CME Vice President of Global Business Policy. Because he was going across the border to work without a written contract in hand, U.S. border guards decided to apply the full letter of the law.

"They searched him, detained him and finger printed him," Laurin said. "Then he had to turn around and go back home. He came to us wondering whether he'd have problems getting into the U.S. the next time."

This issue has been getting progressively worse over the last few years, said one CME member. The company has several employees who need to travel to the US every month.

Sales people going for meetings or trade shows run into hassles at the airport or border. Maintenance technicians are often stopped and even turned back on their way across the border to repair a specialized piece of equipment that has broken down.

"Border crossing personnel seem to be trained in preventing normal business relations," the company owner said. "In this global business environment, the US is the only country that puts these roadblocks up."

"The uncertainty of being able to cross the border when needed, is affecting trust in Canadian suppliers. If our technicians cannot get to the customer in case of emergency, it can mean productions stop and loss of income."

Asking members about their experiences at the border drew a huge reaction, Laurin said. Big enough that CME went to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa for help.

About 80 people took part in an Aug. 30 webinar to catch up on the ins-and-outs of doing cross-border business. The session ranged from what goods can be taken across the border without paperwork to who needs a visa.

The game has changed for manufacturers in recent years, Laurin said. After-sales service has become a big part of doing business and current NAFTA rules leave a grey area.

Negotiators hope to shine a light in some of the darker corners with the Beyond the Border initiative. Talks are aimed at updating the playbook to improve business access for both Canadians and Americans.

CME members looking to listen to the webinar can catch it at the following link.

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