Canada, US reach workaround deal on Nexus application backlog, agree to missile deal for Ukraine

Canada and the United States have reached a workaround deal in a dispute over the popular Nexus trusted traveler system, and President Joe Biden will visit Canada in March.

The Prime Minister’s Office announced the development at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City Tuesday. The get-together is also informally known as the Three Amigos Summit.

Separately, Canada announced that it plans to buy a US-made National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) and an unspecified number of missiles, to be donated to Ukraine.

The dispute over Nexus, which allows citizens of Canada and the United States to cross their joint border more quickly, generated a backlog of about 300,000 applicants waiting in the queue to get their applications approved.

Canada and the US remain at odds over legal protections for US Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, officers who worked in Nexus offices in Canada. The Americans want the same protection for them as is guaranteed to US preclearance officers at Canadian land crossings and airports under a 2019 binational agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with US President Joe Biden in Mexico City on Tuesday.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister’s Office press secretary Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will outline the deal later Tuesday.

A Canadian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal on Nexus is a workaround to speed up application processing.

A key part of the application process is two interviews: one by Canadian customs officials and one by American CBP officers. These must be completed before a Nexus card is granted and were previously conducted at special offices across Canada that were located near Canadian airports.

According to the Canadian official, the workaround will allow Canadian Nexus applicants to conduct their Canadian interview at a number of yet-to-be-announced Canadian airports, prior to a flight to the United States. When the applicant’s US-bound flight lands in the United States, they would head to a US customs office to complete their American Nexus interview.

Another short-term fix announced last year allows Canadian applicants to conduct both interviews at two land border points of entry to the United States: one near Kingston, Ont. and one at Fort Erie, Ont. In these cases, the applicants conduct their Canadian interview on the Canadian side and then cross the border to the US customs office to conduct their American interview.

mr. Biden’s visit to Canada in March will be his first to Canada since he became president in January 2021.

The high-tech NASAMS weapon system, which the US is also supplying Ukraine, allows Kyiv’s forces to knock Russian missiles out of the sky. Such gear has taken on increased importance since the fall when Moscow increased its missile strikes on Ukraine to destroy Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

Also at issue in the Nexus dispute is the Fast program, which makes cross-border commercial shipments simpler and subject to fewer delays.

Nexus and Fast are a joint program, and require applicants to be interviewed by both Canadian and US customs officers before approval is granted.

mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau also discussed how to handle the humanitarian and gang crisis in Haiti, with the US hoping to nudge Canada into leading an international security force in the island nation.

“We’re going to discuss how we can try to help stabilize Haiti and how we can deal with migration and, at the same time, bolster our national security,” Mr. Biden said at the beginning of their meeting.

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Biden to use Three Amigos summit meeting with Trudeau to push for security forces in Haiti

It was not immediately clear whether Canada would make such a commitment. A White House summary of the meeting said Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau agreed to coordinate with the United Nations Security Council on how to shore up the Haitian National Police.

Ahead of the meeting, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the US was looking for a country “to help lead” a security force to help Haitian authorities. He said Canada had expressed interest.

“What exactly the terms and parameters of security support looks like, what it means in terms of boots on the ground… the two leaders will discuss,” he said.

The US floated the idea of ​​Canada leading such a force last autumn, but Canada demurred on making a decision, saying it needed more time to consult with Haitians.

Haiti is suffering from shortages of food, medicine and fuel, in part because of gang blockades of ports and frequent kidnappings. Canada and the US are the two largest foreign-aid contributors to the country and have also laid sanctions against Haitian politicians they accuse of helping finance the gangs.

The US is also eager to stabilize Haiti to stop the flow of Haitian migrants, who have shown up in large numbers at the southern border and in Florida. Last week, Mr. Biden announced a plan to turn back Haitians, along with citizens of three other countries, at the border.

Before the pandemic, about 60 percent of Nexus processing was done in Canada and 80 percent of the applications were Canadians.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said in a statement that NASAMS is Canada’s first donation of a surface to air missile system to Kyiv. She said it will cost more than $400-million and is funded from an additional $500-million originally allocated for Ukraine by Ottawa in November.

A NASAMS is a short to medium range ground-based air defense system that protects against drone, missile, and aircraft attack.

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