Ashcroft announces pact with Canada on new security plans for border; flow of goods stressed

Monday, December 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ The United States and Canada have agreed on a plan designed to keep terrorists out of both countries and secure the flow of vital trade goods, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Monday.

``The United States and Canada have a very important mutual mission and responsibility to undertake,'' Ashcroft said.

The purpose of the agreement, to be signed later Monday in Ottawa, is to ``keep our common border secure and accessible,'' said Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Grey.

Elements of the program include expanding integrated border enforcement teams, adding Canadian officials to the U.S. foreign terrorist tracking task force and tightening the visa entry process.

Since the terror attacks, the passage of auto parts and other goods has been slowed at the border because of tightened security, affecting the trade partnership between the United States and Canada, considered the world's largest at about $1.3 billion a day.

``There were a lot of things in the congestion around the border that hurt both nations,'' Ashcroft said. ``We don't want to be shutting down our automotive industry because we don't have a fast enough inspection process.''

In Washington on Sunday, Ashcroft announced an increase in the federal presence along the 4,000-mile border to reduce economically damaging bottlenecks while defending U.S. security.

The initial deployment would include more than 400 National Guard troops to 43 land, sea and air ports of entry in a dozen states, and patrols by military helicopters.

Ashcroft also met with Arab-Americans in Michigan on Sunday to discuss the Sept. 11 investigation.

An issue that has been at the forefront in southeastern Michigan _ home to about 300,000 Arab-Americans _ is the department's effort to question about 5,000 visitors from the Middle East and other areas.

The Justice Department says it wants to determine if the men have been approached by Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization, al-Qaida.

Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said Ashcroft wanted to learn more about how the attacks and investigation have affected Arab-Americans and ease the backlash.