Rep. Owens' bill would kill border fee
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 - 11:40 am

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bill Owens today introduced legislation that would waive a proposed $5.50 fee on Canadian visitors who travel to the United States by air or sea.

That fee was reinstated in the recently passed Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which Owens voted against in the U.S. House of Representatives, a statement from the congressman’s office said.

“New York’s tourism industry is a major economic engine in the region and Congress must focus on supporting these industries – not stifling them,” said Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh who represents an area from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario in Congress.

“We must reduce barriers to cross-border commerce and that’s what this legislation aims to do,” Owens said.

Since 1997, Congress has exempted Canadian travelers from paying a $5.50 customs fee each time they enter the U.S. by air or boat. This exemption was removed by the recently passed U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a bill sponsored by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA).

“Ferries and tour boats are key parts of the 1000 Islands tourism industry,” said Tourism Director Gary DeYoung of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council. “Applying a fee intended for long-haul commercial passengers to these local tourist and transportation services is unfair and misses the intent of the original proposal. I am hopeful that the situation can be corrected before our region suffers economic damages.”

Owens’ Northern Border Commerce Protection Act would support New York businesses by reinstating this exemption for Canadian travelers arriving to the U.S. by air or sea.

“I applaud Congressman Owens for standing up on this issue,” said Canadian Member of Parliament Gord Brown (Leeds-Greenville) “It is important to make it as easy as possible for tourists to cross the border in both directions. This fee will just discourage people in Canada from entering the United States.”

"The problem with imposing these petty fees on Canadians visiting the U.S. by any means is that they create annoyance and bad will across the board," said President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce Garry Douglas.