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Canada and Mexico are the United States largest trading and travel partnersaccounting for one-third of the value of U.S. international tradeand are the top destinations for Americans traveling abroad. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect in January 1994, Canadas and Mexicos shares of overall U.S. international trade and travel have grown.

This cross-border trade and travel represents a large amount of economic activity, commerce, and tourism of benefit to all three countries. In 2000, the value of U.S. merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico was $653 billion. Canadians and Mexicans spent nearly $15 billion for travel or fares to visit the United States. U.S. travelers spent approximately the same amount in Canada and Mexico.

As trade and travel increase, questions about how they affect the U.S. transportation system have become prominent (e.g., are facilities at land border crossings, seaports, airports, and intermodal terminals and connectors able to meet passenger and freight demand?). Like other transportation demands, increased trade and travel can affect competition for network space, scheduling, capacity needs, congestion, safety and security, and the environment. Increases in trucks and personal-use vehicles crossing the borders and changes in modal shares could result in bottlenecks at the dominant border crossing points and operational inefficiencies in the movement of people and freight. In addition, heightened security requirements will also affect the flow of goods and people across U.S. borders.

This report examines recent trends in U.S. international trade and passenger travel with Canada and Mexico.1 It also reviews modal shares of NAFTA-partner trade and travel, examines the geography of the trade and travel flows, and identifies key influencing factors. Table 1 provides summary data on trade and travel and context information about the population and economy of the three countries.

End Notes

1 Except where noted, this report generally examines trade trends for the 1994 to 2000 time period. Overnight travel is examined through 2000. However, due to limitations of data availability, same-day travel and overall travel trends are generally reviewed through 1999.

Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017