Border fee would hurt trade

“That will be $22,” the Homeland Security border guard at the U.S. Customs said to the family of four headed to the movie theatre in International Falls.
It has not happened yet, but the United States is exploring the option of collecting a user fee to enter the country by land (the U.S. already collects $5.50 through a passenger inspection fee from Canadians flying into the States).
Like all agencies across North America, this U.S. agency is looking at ways to offset costs in protecting the country.
The Department of Homeland Security revealed the possibility of the crossing fee in a budget request. It is looking for funds to study the cost of collecting new tolls for people walking or driving into the States from either Canada or Mexico.
For border communities like Fort Frances and International Falls, the fees would have dramatic costs on families visiting one another. The quick crossing to catch a flight out of the Falls or Duluth would be discouraged.
The skipping across the border for cheap gas also would be discouraged. And Canadians likely would rethink that family getaway in Duluth or Minneapolis.
As well, patients travelling to Winnipeg for medical appointments would be less likely to take the faster route through Baudette and Warroad, Mn.
This potential added cost for tourists returning home after vacationing in Canada, meanwhile, would create as much havoc as the requirement by both governments that travellers moving across the border have a passport.
It is interesting that both the Canadian and U.S. governments are looking to remove barriers to cross-border trade. Both recognize that the movement of goods and services across the border is important to the economies of both countries.
This proposal flies in the face of removing barriers.
A study by the Bank of Montreal indicated Canadian retailers believe they lose $20 billion in sales to Canadians shoppers buying in the U.S. In that respect, this proposed crossing tax could be a boon for Canadian retailers.
But any fee added to travellers or truck drivers will be bad for both countries. It becomes a barrier to trade, and the movement of goods across the border becomes more difficult.
More than 350 million people cross into the U.S. at land borders annually. A small fee would put a significant dent in the Homeland Security budget. At the Fort Frances crossing, with more than 300,000 people crossing each way every year, it would be a significant windfall for Homeland Security.
In the month of February, Canadians made 1.2 million same-day trips to the U.S.
It will be interesting to see how northern U.S. members of Congress react to this proposal. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce already is lobbying to stop it.

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