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Owens hosts trade forum

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POTSDAM — Thinning the border between the U.S. and Canada for more efficient trade and tourism while improving security was the focus of a forum hosted Friday at Clarkson University by U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

“This is very important to our region,” he said to more than 50 participants. “It has tremendous impact on our economy on every level.”

The forum highlighted the work of the Beyond the Border Action Plan and the Regulatory Cooperation Council.

“We’re moving in the right direction whereas in the past we weren’t moving in any direction,” Mr. Owens said.

Follow-through has to be continual, said Mohawk Council Grand Chief Michael K. Mitchell, such as finding a way for Akwesasne Mohawks who live on the reservation that spans the U.S. and Canada to easily travel the international crossing that connects southern Ontario, Cornwall Island, and Massena.

Customs officials have broached the topic of a secure card for Mohawks several times in recent memory without result, he said.

“We never heard from them again,” he said. “The only time you listen is when we’re protesting. We’re tired of that.”

While the vast majority of people using the crossing are just trying to get home, commerce is delayed, Mr. Mitchell said.

“For your international business, we’re holding you up,” he said.

The focus for border security should be on high risk traffic rather than all-risk, said Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.

“This is an issue that affects our economic prosperity,” he said. “So much of this is common sense.”

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