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Canada-United States Relations Overview


People looking at Niagara Falls while aboard 'The Maid of the Mist' in Niagara. In the background is the bridge border crossing from Canada to the United States.

People looking at Niagara Falls while aboard 'The Maid of the Mist' in Niagara. In the background is the bridge border crossing from Canada to the United States.

The United States and Canada share two borders and their bilateral relationship is among the closest and most extensive in the world. It is reflected in the high volume of bilateral trade -- the equivalent of $1.6 billion a day in goods -- as well as in people-to-people contact. About 300,000 people cross between the countries every day by all modes of transport. In fields ranging from security and law enforcement to environmental protection to free trade, the two countries work closely on multiple levels from federal to local.

In addition to their close bilateral ties, Canada and the United States cooperate in multilateral fora, including international efforts to combat terrorist financing and money laundering. The two countries belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO, WTO, G8, G20, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Organization of American States, and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Canada accepted an invitation to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement being negotiated among the United States and other countries.

Security and Defense

U.S. defense arrangements with Canada are more extensive than with any other country. The Permanent Joint Board on Defense provides policy-level consultation on bilateral defense matters and the United States and Canada share North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mutual security commitments. U.S. and Canadian military forces cooperate on continental defense within the framework of the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

The Beyond the Border initiative outlines a vision for perimeter security and economic competitiveness whereby the United States and Canada work in partnerships within, at, and away from our borders to achieve enhanced security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods, and services between our two countries. The United States has several successful joint law enforcement programs with Canada such as the Integrated Border Enforcement Teams (IBET), Border Enforcement Security Taskforces (BEST), and the ShipRider Integrated Cross Border Maritime Law Enforcement program. Senior leadership engages in these efforts through fora such as the Cross Border Crime Forum (CBCF), which is chaired by the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security with their Canadian counterparts. As part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan, U.S. and Canadian officials are enhancing cross-border law enforcement radio interoperability and building on the successes of programs such as IBET, BEST, and ShipRider to develop the next generation of integrated cross-border law enforcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conducts preclearance operations at eight Canadian airports, allowing air travelers to arrive at domestic terminals in the United States by screening and making admissibility decisions about U.S.-bound travelers and their accompanying goods or baggage prior to departure. The United States and Canada intend to enhance preclearance operations and expand them to also cover land, rail, and ferry/cruise travel as part of the Beyond the Border Action Plan.

Energy and The Environment

The United States and Canada work together to resolve and manage transboundary environmental and water issues. A principal instrument of this cooperation is the International Joint Commission established under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. Under the Columbia River Treaty, Canada and the United States jointly regulate and manage the Columbia River as it flows from British Columbia into the United States. The two countries cooperate on a range of bilateral fisheries issues and international high seas governance initiatives, and are both founding members of the Arctic Council.

The bilateral Clean Energy Dialogue (CED) is charged with expanding clean energy research and development; developing and deploying clean energy technology; and building a more efficient electricity grid based on clean and renewable energy in order to reduce greenhouse gases and combat climate change in both countries. Canada is an ally of the United States in international climate change negotiations. Canada participates in the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate; the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which aims to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in major industrial sectors; and the International Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which researches effective ways to capture and store carbon dioxide.