November 4, 2011: Ottawa

A few weeks ago I gave a speech at the Canadian Club here in Ottawa where I talked about the strength of the relationship between the United States and Canada. I also discussed a couple of events that had gotten a lot of attention in the previous few weeks which some thought were evidence that the relationship was souring. I tried to put those issues into the proper context.

One of the issues I raised was a comment by the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Richard Lidinsky, at a conference in Montreal where he talked about how he had been asked by the two U.S. Senators from Washington State to look into the fact that the United States was charging a Harbor Maintenance Fee in Seattle that was not being charged in Vancouver and which was diverting a lot of shipping from Seattle to Vancouver. He said he was going to launch a study to determine the appropriate response.

As I explained in my remarks, and contrary to some of the hue and cry in the press and elsewhere, Chairman Lidinsky had assured me that no one at the FMC or in the U.S. government has raised the prospect of levies, sanctions, or tariffs. He was simply talking about a study of the facts. He wanted to give everyone – including Canadians – an opportunity to weigh in. He said that while he was not going to prejudge what, if any, solutions he might recommend after he heard from all interested parties and after he completed his study, there was one thing he was quite sure of. He would not recommend taxes, fees, or tariffs on good entering Canada.

True to Chairman Lidinsky’s word, yesterday The Federal Maritime Commission issued a formal Notice of Inquiry to solicit the public’s views on what is causing or contributing to the shift of containerized cargo from U.S. to Canadian and Mexican seaports. Comments are due by December 22, 2011. Here is a link to the Notice of Inquiry with further details.

This is an opportunity for Canadians – and everyone else – to submit their thoughts.


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