Paul M. Tellier, president & CEO of rail giant Canadian National Railway Co., said that the security and trade challenges resulting from the September 11 attacks on the U.S. calls for coordinated processing of people and freight reaching North America and "smart" new U.S.-Canada border practices.

Tellier, speaking last week to the Traffic Club of Chicago, said the U.S. and Canada must ensure the integrity of their shared border, but that neither country can afford measures that would harm a trading partnership worth $450 billion last year.

"North Americans are trying to work their way out of a potential recession,” Tellier said. “That recession will get worse if we slow down the cross-border trade that drives the economy of both countries.”

Coordinated security for freight, for example, would entail customs processing of overseas containers destined to any point in North America at the first port of entry, regardless of whether that port is in the U.S. or Canada. Once cleared, containers would cross the international border freely, freeing up people and technology for security and intelligence gathering where needed most, Tellier said.