Sen. Max Baucus said he is happy that President Barack Obama and the prime minister of Canada have promised to strengthen border security, increase trade and improve the economy of both countries.
“I'm focused on Montana jobs, and have worked hard to create new opportunities for Montanans to tap into new markets in Canada,” Baucus said in a release Friday. “Whether by expanding the hours of operation at our shared ports along the northern border, or using the latest technology to secure our borders while facilitating the movement of trade, Montana jobs are my top priority — and I look forward to working with our neighbors to the north to make progress on all of these important issues.”
Baucus and Montana’s other senator, Jon Tester have been working on legislation to upgrade the Port of Wild Horse north of Havre to a full 24-hour commercial port, something a joint committee of north-central Montanans and Albertans have been pushing for.
The committee and Montana and Alberta business representatives have said upgrading the border would create better ties to the strong economy north of the border, increasing economic development in both regions.
A similar effort is under way to upgrade the Port of Turner north of Harlem, to increase ties to Saskatchewan.
Tester also praised the agreement.
“Our partnership with Canada is critically important,” Tester said this morning. “It's Montana's most important trading partner, and we share a commitment to a secure border. I'm pleased to see ramped-up efforts on both of those fronts. But as the economy slowly rebounds and as this week's report on border security show, there's a long way to go.”
Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the declaration in a press conference at the White House Friday.
The U.S.-Canada Declaration on Border Security and Competitiveness calls for creation of a council made up of United States and Canadian officials working on economic growth as well as increasing the security on the border.
The issue reached national proportions in Havre last fall when Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin held a town hall meeting here. The meeting was held at the end of a tour of border facilities set up by Baucus and Tester.
At the meeting, Napolitano and Bersin announced that the hours at Wild Horse would be extended, with the summer hours running a month later last year, through October, and start earlier this year.
The summer hours will begin March 1 and again run through October this year.
Customs and Border Protection and the local governments and business organizations, including the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, have been working to publicize and promote the extended hours.
A similar extension in 2008 did not show a major increase in traffic, but advocates have said lack of promotion — and a failure of the Canadian border services to mirror the extension for the full period — as well as the economic recession could have stifled the impact.