Bi-National Action Plans
PNWER's annual conference sets goals for closer border relations
The Pacific Northwest Economic Region is a non-partisan, public-private partnership formed by statute in 1991. PNWER includes the northwestern states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan. Alberta, British Columbia and the Canadian Yukon and Northwest Territories. I serve as one of the Idaho legislative delegates to PNWER.
The 2012 PNWER Annual Summit was held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on July 15–19 and included 550 delegates from government, non-governmental organizations, business and academia, working together to address major economic issues impacting the Northwest region.
Outcomes from the meeting included reviving the agriculture working group session that will continue investigating ways to enhance the agriculture trade between the United States and Canada. Significant outcomes from the summit also included “PNWER’s continued input on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama’s Beyond the Border and Regulatory Co-operation Council Action Plans. Prior to the action plan’s inception in December 2011, PNWER working groups had been instrumental in providing regional input for these action plans, which are the cornerstone of North America’s economic competitiveness and security strategy. The joint action plans are designed to simplify the process for each country’s citizens to travel and do business across the border.”
Notable speakers at the conference included Saskatchewan Prime Minister Brad Wall and Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer. Both speakers expressed disappointment in President Obama’s decision to delay a decision on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that, if constructed, would carry oilsand’s bitumen oil from Alberta to Texas for refining.
Although expressing his disappointment with the delay in a decision on the pipeline, Ambassador Doer was not as emphatic as Premier Wall in his statements addressing the delay. Premier Wall was quoted as saying “he winced every time during the acrimonious debate in the U.S. over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline when he heard Americans use the phrase ‘dirty Canadian oil’ or ‘extreme energy’ to describe Canada’s oil exports to the U.S.”
A Canadian newspaper quoted Premier Wall as saying: “I’ll tell you what I think extreme energy is,” he said, alluding to the Middle East. “I think that is secured directly or indirectly by putting the sons and daughters of Americans in harm’s way—that’s extreme energy ... Energy you acquire from countries where the majority of citizens just flat don’t like you—that’s extreme energy.”
Many of the Americans attending the conference expressed support for Premier Wall and Ambassador Doer’s positions on the pipeline and the disappointing delay in arriving at a decision on approving the pipeline.
PNWER delivers results on issues important to the region through action plans developed by as many as 20 working groups that meet during the summit to address issues of importance to the region. An industry leader and a government representative chair each working group. Representative Eric Anderson and I both co-chair two of these working groups: I co-chair the Renewable Energy working group and Representative Anderson is co-chair of the Invasive Species working group.
The following are some of the action plans developed by the working groups to address significant issues impacting trade and security of our two nations:
Guidelines for sea and inland ports to communicate in the case of a natural disaster or other emergency so that supply chains are not disrupted and operations are able to continue.
Aligning food safety regulations in the United States and Canada
A “two-nation vacation” strategy which will expedite visas for visitors abroad to both the United States and Canada
A “NorPass” which will allow travelers to go from Washington to British Columbia to Southeast Alaska via ferry using a single Eurail rail-style pass
Creation of a permanent mining working group
Recognition of the importance of Canadian and U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement negotiations given the integrated nature of our economies.
Explore the alternative of leasing agreements to landowners that have transmission lines or other infrastructure facilities constructed on their property that would provide annual compensation payments as opposed to one-time payments for the use of their property.
Consider scoping a proposal to identify and understand the impacts of foreign ownership of critical infrastructure in the United States and Canada.
In addition to these initiatives, the Invasive Species working group, co-chaired by Idaho’s Representative Anderson and Mr. Mark Sytsma of Portland State University, announced the formation of a “Regional Invasive Species Council.” The goal of the regional, bi-national invasive species council is “to keep invasive species out of the Columbia River and other regional waterways.” The formation of the regional invasive species council will provide the opportunity for policymakers to share limited resources and be more effective in preventing invasive species from moving into our region.
The PNWER Saskatoon Summit was an intensive and successful five day summit that identified issues that impact the trade and security interests between our two countries and the formation of working group action plans that will address these issues of common importance over the next year.
Thanks for reading! As always please feel free to contact me. My home mailing address is: P.O. Box 112, Dover, Idaho and my home phone is (208) 265-0123. I can also be reached by e-mail at geskridge(at)coldreams.com. George