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Press Release

NIAGARA RIVER’S “BIG 4” MAYORS DEMAND FEDERAL FOCUS ON FACILITATING TRADE & TRAVEL AT BORDER CROSSINGS

Urge both governments to act swiftly to resolve issues to maintain access at U.S./Canadian border crossings along the Niagara River

FORT ERIE, ONTARIO, March 27, 2003 – Citing the increased tensions throughout the world as a result of the ongoing war with Iraq, the mayors of Fort Erie and Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Buffalo and Niagara Falls, New York today sent letters urging Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Manley, United States Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and local members of the Canadian Parliament and U.S. Congress to act swiftly to resolve issues and fund measures that will maintain access at U.S./Canadian border crossings along the Niagara River.

“As the mayors of the four largest cities on the Niagara River, we are imploring our respective Federal representatives to focus their attention on maintaining the flow of goods and people across the Canadian/American border,” Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop, said. “Neither of our countries can afford to suffer the economic damage that will result from restricted access.”

According to the mayors, Canadian/U.S. trade accounts for 25 percent of the U.S. economy and 60 percent of the Canadian economy. Thirty-five percent of all Canadian/U.S. trade crosses the border on the bridges over the Niagara River.

“With the U.S. economy suffering and most of the world’s economies slowing or in recession, now is not the time to disrupt the movement of goods between our nations,” Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said. “It is clear to us that no issue comes close to having as much impact upon our cities than the trade, tourism and workforce which cross our bridges on a daily basis.”

The mayors are urging their governments to implement effective technologies and techniques to provide security at the border crossings without long delays and to adequately fund their respective Customs and Immigration offices in order to prevent disruptions in summer tourism.

“The tourism industry and the many employers with a bi-national workforce need these processes implemented without delay,” Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Wayne Thomson said. “The Niagara River and its communities offer easily accessible holidays for 60 percent of North America’s residents. However, warnings about the delays at the border and extra security have proved to have an adverse effect on tourism.”

At the same time, technology implementation and adequate staffing is only an interim solution. The group stated that, while there is general acknowledgement that millions of dollars can be saved in the construction of a new Peace Bridge or eventual expansion of the Lewiston/Queenston Bridge by completing inspections on one side of the bridge crossing, enforcing both countries’ laws on the same side of a crossing continues to face procedural hurdles caused by the differing legal systems in each country. The mayors have urged the Canadian and U.S. governments to either resolve the issues impeding the implementation of shared border management or establish International Zones in both countries at bridge crossings.

“We, along with the bridge commissions, local Customs officials and the business community have been working on the issues associated with shared border management for some time,” Niagara Falls, New York Mayor Irene J. Elia said. “It’s imperative for our region that the two central governments accelerate their effort to find effective long-term solutions to the unresolved issues.”

Shared border management is generally understood to relate to the practice of customs officials from both countries conducting inspections in one country. Officials from US and Canadian Customs and Immigration have been working to resolve the multitude of issues which arise because of differing legal traditions, national sovereignty issues and differing national constitutions.

The proposal to create an International Zone where inspections could be conducted is favored by some because the laws of both countries could apply to the officials acting within the zone. Such a “Zone” would likely require the creation of a new treaty between Canada and the US and would involve each country seeding sovereign territory to such zones.

Both options present potential difficulties, the Mayors are convinced that attention to these issues at the highest levels of both governments can resolve them as the economic health of both nations depends on a resolution.