Vital Borders and Transportation Impacts
The U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada are more than just lines on a map. The U.S. border regions represent dynamic links between the people of the United States and neighboring countries in a strong and vibrant network of trade and cultural, social, and institutional relationships. As a transportation official, I recognize the expected growth of these links as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Yet I am amazed by the sheer size and impact these links have on personal lives and on business.
More than 12 million Mexicans and Americans live in the counties, towns, and cities adjacent to the border that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Every year, some 350 million people legally cross to and from the United States and Mexico, and more than 200 million people cross the U.S.-Canadian border to share knowledge and culture, and to work, play, and visit family and friends.
Every day, the United States and Canada trade more than $1 billion in goods and services ($394 billion total in 2003)—more than any other two nations in the world. In fact, trade between the United States and Canada is greater than that of the U.S. and all 15 European Union countries combined! The United States and Canada represent barely 5 percent of the world's population, yet more than a third of the world's gross domestic product.
In 1999, the United States' other neighbor, Mexico, surpassed Japan as the U.S.'s second-largest trading partner, and Mexico has remained in this position since then. The total U.S.-Mexico trade exceeded $235 billion in 2003—about half a million dollars a minute.
When countries trade at the volumes that Mexico, Canada, and the United States do, and when people travel across borders in the numbers that they do, and when goods and services cross borders with such frequency, the transportation and border inspection systems need to work well together, to maintain security and maximize the efficient flow of people and goods. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) works in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, General Services Administration, U.S. Department of State, the Government of Mexico and its States, the Federal Government of Canada and Canadian Provinces, U.S. border States, and many others to identify issues and implement solutions, including increased capacity, operational improvements, border intelligent transportation systems, innovative financing, and preclearance procedures, to highlight just a few.
The challenge is to meet transportation and security needs promptly before these matters can weaken the economy and U.S. security. With the heightened focus on U.S. land borders, FHWA has been working diligently with Federal, State, and local partners to maximize the efficiency, security, and safety of the Nation's transportation system. By recognizing that U.S. land ports of entry are not islands, but rather integral parts of America's transportation system, the transportation community can fully meet national needs to ensure a strong America.
Cynthia J. Burbank
Associate Administrator for Planning, Environment, and Realty
Federal Highway Administration