Feds face calls to raise duty-free exemption

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OTTAWA – The new Liberal government is facing fresh pressure to expand how much Canadians can spend on products shipped or mailed from abroad without paying duty.

A business source tells The Canadian Press that a U.S. senator urged at least one Trudeau cabinet minister last week in Washington to bump up Canada’s duty-exemption limit from its current level of $20.

A renewed push by American officials and industry is underway as the Liberals prepare to release their maiden budget next Tuesday.

eBay Canada says it has recent data that argue raising the duty-free limit in Canada would benefit the country’s small- and medium-sized businesses, consumers as well as Ottawa’s bottom line.

The company’s managing director, Andrea Stairs, says on items valued between $20 and $80 the federal government spends tens of millions of dollars more to collect duties than the actual revenue it brings in.

But Karl Littler of the Retail Council of Canada says increasing the limit would put Canadian businesses at a disadvantage in favour of foreign competitors, such as American companies.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen raised the issue directly with Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains in Washington, said a business source who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Bains was part of the Canadian delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week in Washington.

Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a bill that quadrupled the American duty-free exemption limit to US$800.

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