There are many ways to judge the fluidity of traffic across the
US-Canada border, but one of the best is business at Perani's Hockey
World in this community just across the river from Detroit.
About 80 percent of the store's sales come from American players
who travel across border to take advantage of the favorable exchange
rate. And business has been very good of late.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year, business
fell sharply. But that seems like ancient history now, says
salesperson Chris McDonald, flanked by hundreds of hockey sticks.
"It was bad for that first month. The backup at the border was three
or five hours for a while. But it picked up and it hasn't stopped.
In fact, we're busier than ever. A lot of our customers say it is
easier now than it was even before 9/11."
The Detroit-Windsor border is an example of what happens when
fears of terrorism and the wish for tighter borders come face to
face with the need for cross-border commerce, namely, an attempt to
balance the two.
But that delicate equilibrium is facing challenges. In October
last year, the US Congress passed a bill requiring that all non-
Americans participate in a registration system upon entering the US
from Canada. Following talks last week with Homeland Security chief
Tom Ridge, Canada's Deputy Prime Minister expressed concern over the
plan, noting that such an intricate process could snarl up the ease
of freight and transportation at the two most vital portals of
commerce between the two nations.
The US, too, is keen to keep goods flowing between the two
borders. The two crossings here, the Ambassador Bridge and the
Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, combined with the Blue Water Bridge in
nearby Port Huron, Mich., handle about 35 percent of the roughly
$1.5 billion in trade that passes between the two countries daily.
The Ambassador Bridge sees more commerce cross the border than any
other point in the country.
But the US is also mindful of the need to prevent terrorists
slipping over the border from its quiet neighbor. In December of
1999, for instance, an Algerian named Ahmed Ressam was arrested in
Washington after attempting to smuggle a van load of explosives into
For now, at least, the border agents are trying to maintain the
balance between trade and security by employing more personnel,
technology, and greater profiling of those traveling across the
"The crossing is very important for the auto sector and to trade
in general because of NAFTA," says Kevin Weeks, director of Field
Operations in Michigan for the US Customs Service. "Up until 9-11,
most of the focus and the technology was on the southern border. …