St. Maarten receives draft US pre-clearance agreement

27 FEBRUARY 2017

MAHO--Efforts to realise pre-clearance for the United States introduced at Princess Juliana International Airport SXM moved one step closer to reality when the first round of meetings were held between St. Maarten and negotiators for the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the US Transport and Security Administration (TSA).

The first meeting was held on Wednesday, February 15, at which time the US negotiating team presented the St. Maarten delegation with an overview of the pre-clearance programme and the expansion process. The local delegation included Prime Minister William Marlin and Justice Minister Rafael Boasman

Marlin said in a press release late Sunday that the first round of negotiations had begun the following day, Thursday, February 16, when a pre-clearance bilateral agreement was presented and discussed. A special pre-clearance team will review the first draft agreement and advise Government on the way forward. Government will send its comments in writing as soon as the team completes its review and submits its advice, Marlin said in the release.

During Thursday's meeting, CBP also presented an in-depth overview of the topics covered in its bilateral agreement. Discussions were also held with TSA on "key topics." The discussions continued with the team at the airport on Friday, February 17.

Marlin said the first agreement that has to be signed to make pre-clearance a reality is a treaty between the US Government and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on behalf of St. Maarten. He will discuss this with Kingdom Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders when they meet in Aruba this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Pre-clearance will make it possible for travellers to the USA to clear Immigration, Customs, Public Health and Department of Agriculture inspections at the airport in St. Maarten before boarding their flights. This will enable passengers to make faster and easier connections when arriving in the US, as they will no longer have to go through Customs and Immigration there.

Marlin said he was “very pleased” with the meetings and is “anxiously looking forward to the completion of the process. The benefits for St Maarten are many and will create new opportunities for increase in passenger movements at our airport.”

The members of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) delegation included principal negotiator on behalf of CBP Assistant Commissioner Mark Koumans; principal negotiator on behalf of TSA Regional Director Mariely Loperena; CPB policy advisor Scott Atack and Pre-clearance Operations advisor Cleatus Hunt Jr.

Marlin and Boasman were supported by a number of civil servants, including the Secretaries-General of the Council of Ministers and the Ministries of General Affairs and Justice, the Chief of Police, representatives of the Civil Aviation Department, management of the local airport and the chairmen of the Airport Holding and Operating Comp

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten