Mr. Bayard to Sir L. S. Sackville
Washington, March 24, 1888.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive your note of the 2d ultimo, transmitting a copy of an approved minute of the privy council of Canada, embodying a report of the minister of customs in relation to certain fees charged on vessels of the United States in the ports of Ontario.[Page 795]
Judging by the tenor of the report of the minister of customs, it would appear that the main argument of my note of the 17th of November last, to which the report is a reply, has not been correctly apprehended. It was not my purpose to argue that the entrance and clearance fees charged on American vessels in certain ports of Ontario are an equivalent of the tonnage duty of 3-15 cents, which was suspended by the President’s proclamation of January 31, 1885, as to vessels coming to the United States from ports in Ontario. Upon this point it is not proposed now to express any opinion.
The purpose of my note was to point out that the entrance and clearance fees referred to constitute a discriminating duty upon vessels of the United States entering at and clearing from ports of Ontario. In reply to this the minister of customs refers to certain fees charged on Canadian vessels in lake ports of the United States, as equivalent to the fees charged in the ports of Ontario. It is not shown, however, that these fees are in any respect discriminating.
In my note of the 17th of November last it was stated that the Department had been informed that the charge of 50 cents for entrance and for clearance on United States vessels of less than 50 tons burden, and of $1 for each of the same purposes on United States vessels of 50 tons burden or over in certain ports of Ontario, was not charged on Canadian vessels entering the same ports from the United States, provided such vessels had taken out a coasting license, which is granted to them free or for a nominal charge, and which they all possess.
The report of the minister of customs appears to admit this difference in treatment, which amounts to a discriminating tax imposed on vessels of the United States in the ports of Ontario referred to.
It is stated in the report of the minister of customs that by the law of Canada the governor in council may, from time to time, throw open the privileges of the coasting trade of the Dominion to the ships or vessels of any foreign country in which British ships are admitted to the coasting trade, and it is also stated that the Canadian government desires “the adoption of a more liberal policy by both countries in relation to coasting, in order that the restrictions to trade in the inland waters of Canada and the United States may be removed, and the Dominion placed in a position to carry out fully the provisions of the section of the coasting law” referred to.
In view of this statement, it is proper to observe that the present question is not understood by this Department to involve a claim that American vessels should be admitted to any privilege of the coasting trade of Canada.
The allegation is that vessels of Canada licensed for the coasting trade of that country are also given advantages over vessels of the United States in the trade between this country and the Dominion. It is not seen that this allegation is answered by saying that vessels of the United States may be admitted to the coasting trade of Canada and thereby secure equality of treatment with Canadian vessels in trade with the United States if the United States will throw open its coasting trade to British vessels.
It seems to the Department that the direct and proper remedy for the present inequality of treatment is to be found in the Dominion act cited by the minister of customs, in which the fees now in question are imposed, but in which it is also provided that the governor in council may reduce or re adjust them.
I have, etc.,