US Congressman Bill Owens, said Monday the recently-signed United States Colombian Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act...includes a $5.50 customs inspection fee for Canadians entering the U.S. by plane or boat.
Owens is in the early stages of introducing legislation to roll back the Canadian fees. He visited Ottawa last week and discussed the potential impacts of the tax with Canadian policymakers.
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Owens said the customs tax will hurt the North Country economy as many businesses along the border depend on Canadian tourist dollars. Additionally, he said, implementing the tax would be difficult.
"What are they going to do? Have a drop box? The boats moving back and forth across the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario are probably the greatest example, because that's going to be the greatest number of people who do that. You're not going to have as many people popping in on small planes. But you will have people coming in by boat all across the St. Lawrence. It's one of the ways in which there's a tremendous amount of tourism."
The deal passed the House with overwhelming Republican support. Owens, a democrat, voted against it. He said the Canadian visitors tax was included in the bill purely to generate revenue. He said such a tax goes against what Republicans have been espousing in recent weeks.
"It's odd to me. They're always talking about not impeding trade, not impeding business, and yet they went ahead and passed something like this, which is going to be a bureaucratic nightmare and is going to have limits on trade. It's really going to adversely affect our district."
Owens said he voted against the legislation for economic and trade reasons—and because it didn't address worker's rights and civil rights.