(Seattle, WA)- Today Senator Patty Murray was the keynote speaker at an international conference in Seattle on "The Canadian Market and the US-Canada Smart Border."
Murray's Remarks Follow:
Thank you, Martha. [Martha Choe, Director, Community Trade and Economic Development]
Good morning, I’m proud to help kick-off this conference about the U.S.-Canada border. Like all of you, I recognize the importance of our partnership with our neighbors to the north. We share strong cultural ties, and we share critical economic links that cross our border.
I’m reminded of a poem by Robert Frost that deals with neighbors and fences. In a poem called, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost talks about a stone wall that separates his property from his neighbor’s property. The wall is made up of loose stones and boulders. Over time, those stones get pushed aside by animals and hunters and the wall needs to be repaired. So one day each Spring, the poet and his neighbor meet at the stone wall. They walk the length of the wall and as they go, they put the fallen stones back in place. The reason they have the wall is to prevent one neighbor’s cows from crossing onto the other neighbor’s property and destroying his crops. As they’re working, the neighbor looks up at Frost and says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
But then they get to another part of the wall. This stretch of wall does not separate cows from cropland. Instead it separates one neighbor’s pine trees from the other’s apple trees. Frost points out that they don’t really need a wall on that part of their property line.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
But instead of hearing him, the neighbor replies by saying again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’”
Friends, I share that poem with you this morning because it shows two different ways to think about the border that we share with our neighbors. In the poem, Frost’s neighbor thinks that fences alone make good neighbors – that having a boundary to separate each other is what’s important.
But Frost has a different view. He knows that what makes good neighbors is not the dividing line – it’s the relationship. It’s meeting with your neighbor to work on a common problem – just as he and his neighbor meet each Spring. Frost sees it as fun. In fact, he calls it a “kind of out-door game,” – a chance to get to know your neighbor. The neighbor, however, keeps repeating his phrase, because to him, it’s the wall itself that’s important.
As I think about our relationship with Canada, I know that Robert Frost got it right. It’s the relationship and the interaction that make for good neighbors. Yes, there are tangible things at the border that are important. In the poem, it was a stone wall. At the U.S.-Canada border, it’s our guard stations, our inspection facilities, our roadways, waterways and rail crossings. But the most important thing is that we work together – across the border - to address our common needs, and that’s why all of us are here this morning.
I want to welcome all of you – and thank your for your commitment to building a strong relationship with Canada. I’ve had a chance to work with many of you over the years on that effort, and I’m proud to continue that effort this morning. I want to welcome the diplomatic leaders who are here today representing the Canadian Consulate in Seattle and the U.S. Embassy in Canada. I want to thank our sponsors: the Cascadia Project, the Washington State Community Trade and Economic Development, and the Canadian-American Border Trade Alliance.
Today I want to update you on some of the things we’re doing to be good neighbor and good trading partners.
These are tough times for our economy. Washington state has the 3rd highest unemployment rate in the nation. We’ve been hit by many things – from the slowdown in the aviation and high tech sectors to droughts, and high energy costs.
One of the best ways to improve our economy is through trade. If we can work together to make it easier to trade with Canada, then we will create good jobs and revitalize our economy.
Today, I want to update you on two ways I’m working to do that in the Senate: first, by investing in our transportation infrastructure, and second by making our security system more efficient.
But first, I want to share with you an experience that I had growing up, that has always shaped the way I look at our ports and trade in particular. When I was growing up, my father managed a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell. Often he would go to trade fairs in Seattle to buy the goods that were sold in the stores. Growing up, I always understood the importance of trade. For my family, it was how we put food on the table. I’ve never forgotten how important trade was to my family, and over the years, I’ve seen the impact it has on every family in our state. Today 1 in 4 Washington state jobs depend on international trade. We’ve got to make the most of those trade jobs. And as you know Canada is one of our largest trading partners. More than a billion dollars in trade and commercial activity crosses the entire U.S.-Canada border everyday.
That’s why I’m so committed to investing in our infrastructure. I know that our transportation infrastructure affects our economy, our productivity, and our quality of life.
When we invest in our ports, our airports, our highways and our railways, we’re creating good jobs today, and we’re laying the foundation for our future economic growth. Over the years, I’ve worked to put myself on the right committees to support trade and infrastructure.
I serve on the Senate’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee – that’s where the INS and Customs departments are funded.
I also serve as the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Transportation and Treasury appropriations subcommittee.
Every year, I help write the budget that funds highway, airport, and other transportation projects across the country, and being on the leadership of that committee really makes a difference.
Back when Senator Gorton and I were both on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee --in Fiscal Year 2001, we secured a total of $68 million in earmarks for Washington state. This year, I’ve secured $245 million.
That funding will support transportation projects in every corner of our state. In addition, Washington State will receive another $600 million in formula funding. All of that funding will be finalized – hopefully soon -- in an Omnibus Appropriations bill.
I’ve used my position to make real investments at the border. Let me share just a few examples.
The Whatcom County Council and many others in this room have established the International Mobility and Trade Corridor project to develop a list of priorities at the border. These are roadways and other transportation needs that will really improve the flow of traffic at the border. In Fiscal Year 2003, I secured $750,000 for these projects.
The year before, I secured $2.5 million for these gateway projects. They are the types of investments that make it easier to move commerce across the border.
I secured $1.2 million to improve San Juan Boulevard in Bellingham. That funding will provide better connections to and from I-5.
I’ve also invested in our rail connections. This year I secured $3 million for the Swift Siding Rail Project in Blaine. It will allow BNSF and Amtrak Cascades trains to be inspected on a separate track so that other freight and passenger trains won’t get stuck behind them.
In addition, I secured $1 million for the High Speed Rail Corridor Grade Crossing. That money will upgrade the rail crossing throughout the state – including in Bellingham.
I’m also looking for other ways to improve transportation between the Washington State and Canada. For example, last year I funded a study to research an international ferry between Blaine and White Rock, Canada. [FY 2003, $200,000]
There’s another issue related to ferry travel that’s very important. The federal government was going to impose a $3 fee on international ferry passengers. It would have taken effect in February of 2003. Working with Senator Cantwell and Congressman Dicks, we eliminated that fee so it won’t hurt ferry traffic between U.S. and Canada.
So one of the ways to improve trade is to improve our transportation infrastructure –- that means attacking the bottlenecks and making it easier to move products from one place to another. I’ve been pleased to hear from many of you about the transportation needs and to help fund solutions in Senate.
Security and Staff at the Border
The other way to improve our border relationship is to address the needs on the security side. We need more resources at the Northern Border -- not only to improve security and to prevent illegal crossings, but also to make sure that goods and services can flow across our border efficiently.
In the post-September 11th world, we’ve had to accept more inspections and tighter security at the border, but we don’t have to accept long delays. I’ve been on the border with our inspectors. I’ve seen the long lines, the wasted time and high costs to our trade relationship. Working together, we can make sure we have the staff and equipment to both improve security and improve commerce.
Many of us in the Northwest were concerned about security long before the horrible attacks of September 11th. For years, our Northwest Delegation had been trying to get the federal government to put more staff and facilities at the Northern Border, but INS and Customs kept their focus on the Southern border.
In fact, I gave a speech on the Senate floor three years when we were debating the Commerce, Justice, State bill. I pointed out the great disparity between our northern and southern borders. I said that, while the South has 4 agents for every 1 mile. The North has just 1 agent for every 13 miles. One of our biggest challenges was that our staff were being removed from the Northern Border and sent down to work on the Southern border. We kept making the argument, but it was hard to get the federal government to focus on it.
Then in December 1999, a suspected terrorist named Ahmed Ressam was stopped at Port Angeles as he tried to enter the United States with bomb-making equipment. That incident finally helped us get the attention of the federal government and has allowed us to make some real investments in equipment and staffing at the border.
Last year, I secured more than $57 million to increase the number of Border patrol agents. That funding will help us add another 570 agents at the border and will help reduce the processing time. [FY 2003, through the Commerce, Justice, State bill]
We made a $25 million investment to add more customs staff at the border
In addition, I’ve supported programs that help our border travelers get in the “fast lane” through the NEXUS program.
Several years ago, I worked with many of you in this room to turn back the Section 110 requirements that would have caused gridlock at the border. While we stopped that program, we know that the US VISIT program is now going forward at the Department of Homeland Security. I’m working to make sure the US VISIT program does not become a barrier to the relationship with Canada that we’re used to here in the Northwest.
And we’re also investing in our facilities at the border. This year, I secured $9.8 million for a new border station at Blaine.
The year before, I secured $3 million for the Colville Border station and more than $1 million for the Oroville Border Station. [FY 2003]
So we’re making progress on two ingredients to a good cross-border relationship.
It starts with our transportation infrastructure, and it continues with making sure we have the resources and staff for a safe, efficient border.
Over the years, I’ve been proud to work with many of you to identify the needs and to implement the solutions. Washington state’s 430-mile land border with Canada is a lot more complex than the simple stone wall that Robert Frost wrote about years ago. But like Robert Frost, we recognize that what’s important is not the wall the divides us, but the common work that unites us – and trade is a big part of that.
So I want to thank all of you for being such strong partners in our relationship with Canada, and I’m proud to be your advocate in the Untied State Senate because it means good things for families on both sides of the border.