Opinion: Sequestration and the Canada-U.S. Border
By David Bradley
President and CEO
Canadian Trucking Alliance
This Opinion piece appears in the March 25 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
It was not that long ago that the land border between Canada and the United States was viewed as a serious impediment to the secure and efficient movement of goods and people between the world’s largest bilateral trading partners.
Trade between Canada and the United States is not a reflection of low wages in either country or disparities in currencies, such as might exist in other trading relationships. (The Canadian dollar has softened a bit of late due to lower commodity prices, particularly for oil, but has been at or above parity with the U.S. greenback for several years now). Instead, the $1.6 billion in daily trade between the two countries is reflective of the level of integration between our two economies and our supply chains.
More than 80% of everything Canada produces is destined for consumption in the United States. If you sneeze, we get a cold.
If one were to turn back the clock prior to the latest recession, the economies of both countries were running at full steam and trade in goods had reached an all-time high. Although cross-border carriers and drivers were the first to feel the effects of the spate of security measures introduced in the post 9-11 period, border agencies had staffed up, automation of border processes was being implemented and border infrastructure was being improved.
But the changes could not keep pace with the sheer volume of goods moving across the land border — the majority of which are carried in trucks. Fully two-thirds by value of Canada’s trade with the United States is shipped by truck, including more than 80% of U.S. imports into Canada.
Waits of several hours were common at many of the busiest land border crossings. This had a negative effect on the reliability and predictability of the North American supply chain. “Just in time” became “just in case” in some situations, while the cost of shipping goods increased. Many truck drivers — who were understandably frustrated over the delays at the border — started to look for domestic-only work. All of this ultimately harmed North American competitiveness.
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