PRESQUE ISLE — Concerns with fair treatment of U.S. residents under the U.S.-Canada free-trade agreement were addressed Friday by Sen. William Cohen and Rep. Olympia Snowe.
Cohen criticized a decision by President Clinton’s administration to allow the U.S. Customs Service to raise the maximum value of goods that can be brought into the country duty-free from Canada.
Cohen questioned Trade Representative Mickey Kantor and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentson on why the limit was raised from $25 to $200 without seeking a similar increase from the Canadian government.
“A Canadian shopping in Maine can bring back only 10 Canadian dollars worth of products duty-free, while Americans shopping in Canada can bring back 200 American dollars without paying a duty,” said Cohen.
The change will put Maine businesses at a further competitive disadvantage to their Canadian counterparts, according to Cohen.
If elected to the Senate, Snowe proposed formation of a Council of Border States on U.S.-Canadian Trade to ensure that free trade is also fair trade. Snowe made her proposal as Congress postponed its debate on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which is now scheduled for late November in the House.
Snowe would address legislation to establish a council that would be made up of representatives of states bordering Canada as well as trade officials and representatives of major industries to evaluate current U.S. and Canadian policies. The council would provide advice and recommendations to Congress, the U.S. trade representative and Clinton, according to Snowe.