BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Canada is by far the United States' most
important trading partner, with exports to our northern neighbor
totaling more than those to Mexico, Japan and China combined. Yet
federal policies to reinforce security without slowing trade have
had mixed results, with some border regions easing bottlenecks more
These and other findings on the U.S.-Canada trade relationship
are published in "Border Brief," a joint effort of the Regional
Institute and the Border Policy Research Institute of Western
Washington University. The brief examines border issues through a
snapshot of export activity in October 2007 across two trade
corridors -- Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Blaine, Wash.
The two institutes have received $11,500 from the recently
formed Northern Border University Research Consortium (NBURC) to
develop a "Border Barometer" that monitors the performance of the
U.S.-Canada border. Both the University at Buffalo and Western
Washington University participate in NBURC, along with four other
universities on the border.
"Buffalo and Blaine are uniquely situated to serve as microcosms
of the U.S.-Canada relationship," said David Davidson, associate
director of the Border Policy Research Institute and co-author of
the brief. "This brief, and the forthcoming Border Barometer, build
a foundation of objective analysis to guide policies affecting all
border regions along the 49th parallel."
Last year in October, typically the peak month for trade due to
pre-holiday stockpiling, nearly 20 percent of U.S.-to-Canada
exports crossed at Buffalo-Niagara Falls, while more than 5 percent
crossed at Blaine, between Seattle and Vancouver.
In that same time period, U.S. exports to Canada were valued at
$23.5 billion compared to $12.4 billion for Mexico and just $5.5
billion for China. While exports to Canada accounted for 20 percent
of total exports for the nation, they comprised more than 50
percent for five states (Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North
Dakota and Iowa). Canada was the largest export market for 36
states, including New York, and the second largest for 10
According to the "Border Brief," among the federal policies that
may be in need of attention is a package of pre-screening programs
intended to bolster security while maintaining border flows.
Different programs implemented by U.S. Customs and Border
Protection and the Canada Border Services Agency screen freight
loads, trucking companies, manufacturers and even truck drivers.
Yet all components must be screened -- a costly enterprise for most
shipping companies -- before trucks can cross via expedited FAST
lanes. Consequently, participation in these programs is relatively
low. At Buffalo-Niagara Falls, 23 percent of trucks use the FAST
lanes to cross the border, while only 5 percent do so at
"Part of the challenge here is the uniform implementation of
federal policies across a wide range of border regions, each with
different commodity flows, shipper profiles and traffic patterns"
said Peter A. Lombardi, a UB institute policy analyst and co-author
of the brief.
For instance, more agricultural products cross at Blaine
relative to other regions; such products are harder to screen due
to their complex supply chain. In contrast, trade across
Detroit-Windsor, where 44 percent of trucks use FAST lanes, is
dominated by a few large automotive companies and a small set of
"Rather than look to policy solutions at the continental level,
policies that allow for some flexibility in regional implementation
could improve border efficiencies without compromising security,"
"The lessons of this policy brief are eye-opening," said Kathryn
Bryk Friedman, institute deputy director and head of the
institute's Region's Edge research initiative on binational
regions. "This collaborative brief demonstrates that the public,
private and academic sectors must move beyond the security-economy
dichotomy that currently frames debate and policy options. We need
to push the conversation to a new level."
The "Border Brief" is part of the institute's Policy Brief
series, which informs regional issues with timely, reliable data
and analysis. All policy briefs are available online at http://regional-institute.buffalo.edu.
It is also part of the Border Policy Research Institute's Border
Policy Brief series, which can be found at http://www.wwu.edu/bpri.
The institute and the Border Policy Research Institute will
release their Border Barometer findings in February 2009 at a
conference to be held in Washington, D.C.
A major research and public policy center of the University at
Buffalo, the Regional Institute plays a vital role in addressing
key policy and governance issues for regions, with focused analysis
of the Buffalo-Niagara region. A unit of the UB Law School, the
institute leverages the resources of the university and binational
community to pursue a wide range of scholarship, projects and
initiatives that frame issues, inform decisions and guide
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.