UB Regional Institute, Border Policy Research Institute of Western Washington University Release 'Border Barometer' Measuring Economic Trends Along U.S.-Canadian Border

By Rachel M. Teaman

Release Date: February 11, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An analysis released today of economic activity along the U.S.-Canadian border likely reflects the impact of economic recession and tighter border controls, as the value of trade between the two nations dropped 9 percent in 2008 and auto and truck traffic declined nearly 5 percent.

These and other findings on the flow of goods and people across the northern border are presented in the "Border Barometer," a joint publication of the UB Regional Institute and the Border Policy Research Institute of Western Washington University. The report also provides a snapshot of economic activity for eight ports of entry, including Buffalo-Niagara Falls.

This second edition of the Border Barometer supplements its inaugural edition from 2009, with the publication designed to monitor key indicators of performance along the northern border for policymakers, researchers and other stakeholders.

Both reports are available online at http://regional-institute.buffalo.edu.

"While much of the cross-border debate centers on issues of security, a better understanding of economic conditions between the U.S. and Canada is crucial to positioning our nations for growth in the global economy," said Kathryn Bryk Friedman, deputy direct of UB's Regional Institute.

Added David Davidson, associate director of Western Washington University's border institute: "This issue of the Border Barometer explores U.S.-Canadian economic engagement overall, but also reveals important trends in regional variation, thereby laying the foundation for better decision making at all levels."

Friedman and Davidson presented the Border Barometer to the CN Forum on border issues at Michigan State University earlier this week.

According to the Border Barometer, the 9 percent decline in trade volume in 2008 is a story closely tied to the economic recession, and particularly the decline in the auto industry. Detroit and Buffalo-Niagara Falls, the two heaviest crossings for manufactured goods, saw sharp declines in trade, falling 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively, between 2007 and 2008.

Moreover, truck traffic at all ports experienced sharp declines during this time period.

Car traffic fell at all ports for the peak period of July through December between 2007 and 2008, with Detroit seeing the biggest drop (16 percent). Buffalo-Niagara Falls, the busiest of all eight ports for handling car traffic due to its tourism industry, placed more in the middle, with a decline of 7.3 percent.

Other noteworthy regional patterns include a drop in imports in Blaine, Wash. A major import gateway for wood products, this region's drop off likely reflects the recent decline of U.S. housing construction.

Nationally and for all eight ports examined in the report, rail exports were up in 2008, pointing to the potential of this transportation mode for future commercial exchange.

The Border Barometer concludes that while these analyses serve as a solid foundation for policymaking on cross-border economic issues, it remains only a first step.

"The Border Barometer presents a comprehensive look at issues of trade volume, traffic and commodities. But crafting better policy will depend on filling gaps in data, including commodity origin and destination, and the number of jobs dependent on trade," Davidson said.

Added Friedman: "A forward-looking research agenda on these issues should engage diverse stakeholders, including leadership from the academic, public, private and nonprofit sectors, to shape a strategic dialogue and demand better research on the border."

The Border Barometer has been funded by the BORDERNET initiative of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

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 change.

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.