FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 6, 2011
SCHUMER: RECENTLY-PASSED LAW OPENS DOOR TO TRAVEL FEES ON CANADIAN VISITORS THAT WOULD BE SEVERE BLOW TO NEW YORK ECONOMY – SENATOR INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO BLOCK FEES THAT COULD HURT TOURISM & BUSINESSES THROUGHOUT THE STATE
Recently-Passed Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Opposed By Schumer, Allows Customs and Border Protection To Charge New Fee On Canadians Entering U.S. Via Boat Or Plane – Could Put Real Damper On Travel & Keep Tourists Out of Upstate New York Businesses, Shops, Restaurants & Tourist Spots
Schumer Successfully Urged CBP To Scale Back Fee on Canadian Ferry Passengers Entering NY, Pushes For All Such Fees To Be Eliminated
Schumer: These Fees Are Like Stop Signs Telling Canadians & Their Money To Keep Out; We Must Tear Them Down
AS PRESIDENT OBAMA PREPARES TO MEET WITH CANADIAN PRIME
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government from charging new fees on Canadians who enter the U.S. by boat or plane. The Colombian Free Trade Agreement that recently passed the Senate includes a provision that will allow Customs and Border Protection to charge a new $5.50 fee on Canadians who travel into the United States. Schumer, who opposed the Colombia FTA, is introducing legislation that would prevent CBP from charging this fee, which could create a disincentive for Canadians to visit the United States. In November, Schumer successfully pushed CBP to eliminate the $5.50 fee on Canadian ferry passengers that cross the border. In order to protect New York State’s economy, which depends in large part on tourism, recreational fishing and camping, sports fans’ visits and business-related trips from Canada, Schumer is introducing his bill to block all of these fees, which also have the potential to cause the Canadian government to retaliate by putting similar fees on New Yorkers seeking to visit Canada.
“The federal government might as well be putting up stop signs in every waterway and at every airport in New York,” said Schumer. “These fees send the wrong message to Canadians looking to visit New York – ‘stop’ coming here for meetings that could lead to new businesses and jobs in New York, ‘stop’ fishing in New York and buying bait and tackle here, ‘stop’ visiting our cities and staying in our hotels, and ‘stop’ eating in our restaurants. New York and the United States should be welcoming Canadian visitors and the millions they spend inside the Empire State with open arms, not nickel and diming them with ridiculous fees. We need to stop these travel fees before they even get out of the gate, so that Canadian tourism can continue to be an economic driver for New York.”
Under new authority granted in the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, Customs and Border Protection now has the authority to charge each Canadian visitor who enters the United States by sea or air a $5.50 fee. Schumer notes that this could be a devastating blow to tourism in the North Country, and put a serious dent in the fishing industry around Alexandria Bay and in other outlets throughout Northern New York. Schumer said that fishermen who might otherwise step on U.S. soil for a meal or to buy fishing supplies during a trip might think twice if they were forced to pay $5.50 per person, per trip. While the fee does not apply to visitors who travel by car, Schumer noted that the fees can create a perception that trips to the United States by any means are becoming more expensive, resulting in a decrease in tourism. Schumer also hopes to avoid a scenario in which the Canadians retaliate against U.S. policy by implementing their own fees, which would keep New Yorkers from visiting their favorite spots in Canada.
Schumer is seeking to immediately remove the Customs and Border Protection’s authority to charge this visitors fee by passing legislation that would reinstate a ban on these Canadian traveler fees. Schumer announced his push for the bill’s passage in the Senate, and hopes to work with New York’s Congressional delegation to pass similar legislation in the House. Both of Vermont’s Senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, have signed on as cosponsors.
In response to a recent visit to Watertown to press Customs and Border Protection to eliminate the $5.50 fee on Canadian visitors that enter the U.S via boat or plane, CBP announced that it would not charge Canadian ferry passengers with this new cost. Schumer noted that while this is an important first step towards eliminating these new charges that will impede tourism and economic growth in upstate New York, it is still insufficient.
· Schumer also noted concerns that this $5.50 fee for Canadian visitors on boats and airplanes would lead to more expensive and wide-reaching fees. Schumer’s legislation would aim to end this idea before it can gain momentum and potentially be imposed on cars or other modes of border crossing. In addition, once a fee is put in place it often gradually becomes more expensive, which would only further hinder Canadians from visiting New York and spending tourism dollars in the Empire State.
Schumer noted the importance of Canadian tourism on New York’s economy. Canada brought in 2,946,000 visitors total to New York State for 8,327,000 hotel nights in 2009. This economic activity amounted to $920 million in spending in New York State. Nationwide, Canada sends 19.96 million tourists to the U.S. each year, which is 33.4% of total visitor volume. Canadian travel to the U.S. amounts to $20.8 billion in spending in the United States. Overall, Canada is the number one country in terms of international arrivals and spending in the United States.
“Customs and Border Protection, while first and foremost working to keep Americans safe, should be rolling out the welcome mat for Canadians who want to spend their money in New York,” continued Schumer. “I’m going to do everything I can to block these fees and make sure New York remains and attractive and welcoming place to visit.”