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A fence won't hamper a friendship between neighbors, as long as a gate is handy. But, with the implementation Oct. 9 of border-crossing fees, President Clinton is putting up a fence around this country equipped only with toll gates.

Clinton's administration is acting a bit schizophrenic about the United States' relationship with Canada and Mexico. On one hand he is attempting to promote commerce through the North American Free Trade Agreement, while with the other hand - outstretched, palm up - he's restricting the free flow of goods and visitors among the countries.Imposing the fees, which range from $4 to $32 for extended stays, is a strange way to treat friends and partners. While working to improve relations with countries like Vietnam, Clinton would do well to honor long-time friendships closer to home.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service will get a few bucks from the fees to help build and maintain facilities but will lose in the long run by discouraging tourists who only want to visit relatives and spend some money in this country. It hardly seems worth it.

It seems logical that Canada and Mexico will take the next step and begin charging visiting Americans some sort of fee also. Lineups of cars will make ports of entry look like Disneyland during spring break.

There is still time for Clinton to change his mind, and a bad idea is worth a change.