PLATTSBURGH — President Barack Obama has signed border pre-clearance legislation that was deemed a priority by the region's congressional delegation.
The president signed the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act of 2016 on Friday — a move welcomed by North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas.
"It took a full year of groundwork and strategy, but then it all moved in a matter of days, thanks to Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer and, of course, the president, who initiated the agreement in the first place and had the chance to sign it into law," Douglas said.
He said the legislation is important in and of itself as an historic milestone in the continuing development of U.S,-Canadian collaboration at our border, but it was especially satisfying that it received unanimous consent in Congress on the way to the president's desk.
"Heightening understanding of the unique success of the U.S.-Canada economic partnership, framed within the North American Free Trade Agreement, is a top priority of ours for the new year," he said.
"This swift and wholly positive action gives our planned efforts a truly positive start."
AWAITING CANADA OK
Pending passage of similar legislation by the Canadian Parliament, the measure paves the way for expanded U.S. jurisdiction over U.S. Customs and Border protection agents working in Canada.
That would allow for pre-clearance of U.S.-bound Amtrak passengers in Montreal, which could reduce the frequency of lengthy delays at the Rouses Point border crossing.
It would also allow for shared border-inspection facilities, which could help keep some of the smaller crossings operational as both sides look to reduce the cost to provide services.
Schumer said he has pushed for this type of legislation for many years.
“Improving commercial and passenger travel between New York and Canada has been one of my highest priorities for the North Country and Capital Region, which is why I have fought so hard for pre-clearance,” he said in a statement.
“This legislation holds tremendous potential, not just for the flexibility it can provide for the New York and Canada, but, once implemented, it will also help improve the North Country’s and Capital Region’s economy and tourism opportunities for local businesses for years to come.
Gillibrand said she was pleased the legislation was sent to the president for his approval.
"Making the pre-inspection permanent will make travel across the border more efficient, enhance the security of the transfer of goods and services across the border, boost New York’s economy and preserve and strengthen our economic ties with Canada," she said.
Stefanik commended New York's Senate for its efforts after the measure passed the House earlier this month.
“Increasing commerce with our Canadian neighbors is a top economic priority for our region, which is why I was proud to lead this initiative in the House," she said.
"This legislation will help build increased economic ties while supporting travel, commerce and tourism between our two nations as well.
"Furthermore, this legislation will help build integrated defense capabilities to maintain a secure Northern border.
"Importantly for the North Country, this legislation will facilitate Amtrak service from Montreal through our district and will reinforce the future of small border crossings by allowing the option of joint operations on one side or the other."
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