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New York Wineries Upset by Double Standard

6:53 PM, Jan 27, 2010   |    comments
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By BRIAN TUMULTY
Gannett Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - If a customer with a Canadian accent comes to Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, Fred Frank knows they're there to taste, not to buy.

That's because it wouldn't make financial sense.

Canadians who visit any of New York's 255 wineries are allowed to bring home two bottles per person duty-free.  But the price of wine bought in the U.S. almost doubles with duties and excise taxes imposed by the Ontario government if a Canadian returns home with more than two bottles.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers can fill the trunk of their car with bottles from the wineries that dot the northern side of Lake Ontario and pay insignificant taxes when they cross the border on their return home.  The first two bottles also are duty-free.

"It's bothersome because it's unfair and it's the antithesis of free trade,'' said Frank, part owner of the winery.  "For us, even though we are not close to the border, Toronto is closer than New York City.''

And what really irritates Frank is that the Ontario government advertises in New York, urging residents to visit the wineries north of the border.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., recently asked U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to protest the unequal treatment of tourists who buy bottles of wine while vacationing on either side of the border.

"We don't do this with Canadian products,'' Schumer said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.  He wants Canadians to be able to buy at least a case or two - there are 12 bottles to a case - duty-free.

Pam Lambo, a spokeswoman for the Canadian embassy in Washington, referred questions Wednesday to Ontario officials who were not immediately available for comment.

Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., are also among a group of 10 senators urging the Obama administration to abandon its effort to limit the participation by wine exporters in a program that provides them with rebates on foreign duties if they also import wine.

The program dates back to the 18th century, according to Schumer, and has wide support among members of Congress.

Gannett ContentOne - Washington, D.C.

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