U.S., Canada launch border initiatives

The U.S. and Canadian governments Tuesday announced initiatives aimed at promoting security and economic cooperation, including an agreement to complete a joint threat and risk assessment addressing a wide range of border issues.

The North American neighbors also have agreed to draft their first-ever comprehensive plan to protect critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids and tunnels, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said at a news conference.

"The security of the United States and Canada is uniquely linked by proximity and a long history of close collaboration between our two governments," Napolitano said. "Today's announcements reflect our commitment to cooperative action to protect and safeguard both nations' vital assets, networks and systems, as well as the shared responsibility to protect all citizens from cross-border crime and terrorism."

Napolitano acknowledged that the United States and Canada have done their own threat assessments involving their shared border. Under the new agreement, the two governments will conduct a joint threat assessment for the first time, she said.

"The assessment, which will be released later this summer, jointly addresses drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the illicit movement of prohibited or controlled goods, agricultural hazards, and the spread of infectious disease," according to a Homeland Security Department statement.

Under the agreement to establish a critical infrastructure action plan, the countries will share information and assess and manage risks, and increase the ability to prepare for and respond to disasters.

"Our mutual security extends beyond our borders, and we must work together to mitigate threats before they reach either Canada or the U.S. while facilitating the legitimate mobility of people and goods between us," Toews said. "Crystallizing a shared vision of border security that facilitates trade is a priority if we are to mitigate threats to our joint security and promote economic competitiveness."

The two governments also plan to sign a memorandum of understanding on cross-border currency seizures. The agreement - to be signed by the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection - is intended to help identify potential threats and assist in money-laundering and terrorist-financing investigations and prosecutions, according to DHS.

Additionally, Napolitano said that six ICE agents will be detailed to join a Canadian effort to help the Haitian National Police prevent the sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking in the Caribbean nation.

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