The passage of three Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea was applauded by the U.S. Travel Association. The association noted that as part of the Colombia FTA, new fees on inbound air travelers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean will be utilized to improve traveler facilitation at U.S. ports of entry, including enhancements to staffing at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Advocates of the Free Trade Agreements see economic benefits to the U.S. and job creation.
"The three FTAs have the potential to spur significant growth in international trade between the U.S. and each of our trading partners, and we expect bilateral travel to increase as a result of our closer economic ties," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
"We congratulate President Obama and the Administration for working with Congressional leaders, including Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and House Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI), for bringing these FTAs to closure," Dow said.
U.S. Travel said it worked to ensure that the additional travel fees included in the Colombia FTA would be primarily designated to improve the travel process.
"Any additional fees assessed on travelers must go toward our nation's travel infrastructure," said Dow. "In order to ensure that an influx of arrivals at our airports will not result in passenger processing delays by CBP, we have been reassured that the new customs fees imposed on Mexican and Canadian travelers will be reinvested in travel facilitation efforts and staffing needs at our nation's airports."
U.S. Travel is also actively working toward Congressional approval of a package of visa reforms that would help facilitate business and leisure travel to the U.S. These initiatives are as critical as FTAs in unlocking the power of international commerce to create jobs in the U.S., U.S.Travel believes.