Mexican and Canadian visitors to the United States are going to find that the price of admission has just gotten a bit steeper, thanks to a new $5.50 tariff that will be assessed on all visitors arriving by air or sea.
The new fee is the result of a U.S.-Columbia free trade deal, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October. According to the CBC, the trade deal includes a clause “that removes an exemption from the tariff for travelers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”
Canada and Mexico had been exempt from the fee, per the 1997 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The new fee has raised the ire of consumers and government officials alike.
“Raising taxes at the border just raises costs on consumers,” said Canadian International Trade Minister Ed Fast. “Canadian officials have raised concerns about the removal of the exemption at the highest level. We will continue to raise Canada’s concerns with U.S. lawmakers.” In addition, U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) announced that he will introduce legislation to repeal the fee.
Imposition of the fee comes at a time when the joint Beyond the Border Working Group, established earlier this year by President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is attempting to finalize agreements on key trade and security issues.
U.S. officials suggested that budgetary pressures warranted the change. “The elimination of the exemption was necessitated by the budget situation in my country,” said U.S. Ambassador David Jacobsen. “It is paid by American citizens and foreign nationals alike, just like Canadian citizens and non-Canadian citizens pay fees at Canadian airports.”
According to the Watertown (NY) Daily Times, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the tariff will raise “about $1 billion from 2012 until 2012.”
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