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Main envoys: Canada and the United States are “coordinated” on the reopening of the borders – even if they are not synchronized

“There has been a tremendous amount of information sharing and coordination and still is,” said Kirsten Hillman, Ambassador of Canada to the United States, on a webcast hosted by Wilson Center’s Canada Institute. “But coordination doesn’t mean you’re going to do the exact same thing and indeed from the very beginning we haven’t done the same.”

Countries put the restrictions in place in March 2020 to slow Covid-19. But as vaccination rates rise, families separated from loved ones, business leaders and lawmakers have called on governments to reopen overland crossings to non-essential travel.

The border wish: Hillman’s comment was in response to the moderator’s question. “Is this a coordinated decision, because it looks like Canada is ahead of the United States here?” Asked moderator Christopher Sands, director of the Canadian Institute.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Joe Biden pledged in their February “roadmap” to take a “coordinated approach” to lifting public health restrictions at the border.

Conversations: Hillman noted that throughout the pandemic, US rules allowed Canadians to travel to the United States, while Canada restricted travel and flights at land borders.

“Coordination is about sharing information, it’s about making sure that we can implement as smoothly as possible. We are doing it, ”she said. “But we are both committed to making decisions based on science and expert advice, and they are our experts. Our science, our experts, our country, what is happening to us on the ground. And the United States is doing the same.

Arnold Chacon, acting charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, said at the event that he agreed with Hillman’s comments and added that cross-border consultations are still ongoing. .

“We continue to review our travel restrictions and any decision to reopen travel will be guided by our public health and medical experts,” said Chacon. “We take this very, very seriously, but I think we are in a good position and the trajectory is very promising. “

Hindsight : This week’s decision at the U.S. border has frustrated U.S. lawmakers and business leaders who have called for a faster reopening.

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, specifically referred to the Biden-Trudeau commitment in his February roadmap.

“Less than five months later, Washington appears to have lost its copy,” Beatty said in a statement. “It is difficult to see how allowing fully vaccinated Canadians to enter the United States poses a threat to public health when travel within the United States is unrestricted. … The Government of Canada must put pressure on the US administration to reverse its policy.

The American explanation: The Biden administration said its decision to expand the measures was due to the continued transmission and spread of Covid in the United States and around the world. The Department of Homeland Security also cited the Delta variant as a factor.

And after: White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that Biden receives regular briefings from task forces exploring how to reopen the United States to international travel, not just for tourism but to reunite families. .

Psaki also asked a question about what can be learned from Canada, where, after a slow start, the vaccination rate has overtaken the United States. More than 60 percent of eligible Canadians are now fully immunized, compared to about 50 percent in the United States.

With Canadian numbers set to rise further, the White House may learn more about cross-border vaccine comparisons.

“First of all, I would say 162 million Americans are now vaccinated,” Psaki said. “This is certainly a positive step. We are the first to say – and we have been saying this for a long time – that it is not enough. We need to make sure that more people and more communities are vaccinated.”

Psaki added that the United States is the world’s largest supplier of vaccines to the global community.

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