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Borderless Commerce: Navigating the Challenges of U.S.-Canada Trade Routes

Published on
April 26, 2024
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Darion Pacocha

When we consider Canadian exports, we naturally think of poutine. But it turns out Canada’s top exports include crude oil, cars, petroleum gases, gold, and wood. Top imports include computers, vehicles, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. Believe it or not, U.S.-Canada trade was valued at a whopping $774 billion last year.

Yes, cross-border trade with our friends to the north is crucial to the U.S. economy, as is the seamless movement of goods across borders.

Canada, the Unsung Partner of North American Trade

Oh, Canada, it seems we forget you’re the CA in the USMCA. Mexico gets all the attention, perhaps because of all the headlines about nearshoring. (A March 2023 Forbes headline called Mexico “The Next Big Thing in Global Markets.”)

It’s time we give Canada the respect it deserves. A Congressional Research Service report updated in early April said that the U.S. and Canada “have one of the largest bilateral commercial relationships in the world, including a highly integrated energy and automotive market.”

The report noted that in 2023, Canada exported 78% of its goods to, and imported almost half of its goods from, the United States.

Vital Industries to U.S.-Canada Trade

A Trading Economics chart broke down the value of specific U.S. exports to Canada in 2023. In fact, it broke it way down. Who knew the U.S. exported $8.98 million worth of “cork and articles of cork” to Canada in 2023? What about the $12.4 million worth of “wool, animal hair, horsehair yarn, and fabric”?

But let’s focus on the top five U.S. exports to Canada in 2023:

  • Vehicles “other than railway, tramway,” valued at $57.73 billion.
  • Machinery, nuclear reactors, and boilers, pegged at $52.76 billion.
  • Electrical and electronic equipment, estimated at $29.41 billion.
  • Mineral fuels, oils, and distillation products, coming in at $28.68 billion.
  • Plastics, totaling $15.41 billion.

The top five U.S. imports from Canada in 2023 were:

  • Mineral fuels, oils, and distillation products, totaling $131.91 billion.
  • Vehicles “other than railway, tramway,” coming in at $56.35 billion.
  • Machinery, nuclear reactors, and boilers, valued at $31.86 billion.
  • Commodities “not specified according to kind,” pegged at $19.97 billion.
  • Plastics, estimated at $13.67 billion.

Navigating Challenges in Cross-Border Exchange

Whether it’s animal hair or a nuclear reactor, there are weighty challenges associated with moving freight from one country to another. They include:

  • Tariffs, “essentially a tax charged by a country for the right to sell merchandise or services to businesses or individuals living in that country,” according to an expert on cross-border shipping. “Tariffs are always a challenge for shippers because many countries use tariff negotiations as a political tactic to get the best deal for their people and the businesses that pay taxes to those countries.”
  • Customs compliance. “The customs department of each of these North American countries places regulations on what can and cannot be sent or shipped into their countries. Some of these products include food that could contain bacteria or other harmful contaminants,” the expert said. “A shipper must understand the customs compliance of each country in order to reduce freight delays.”
  • Regulatory problems. “Another area of concern for U.S.-based shippers is increasing regulatory problems with the importing of medical and food-based products. Each country has its own regulations for the quality of products that can be imported into their countries. If a shipper’s products do not comply with that nation’s regulatory process, the freight cannot enter the country,” the expert said.

“When you break it down simply, any company that does not face these challenges head-on or does not know how to navigate their way through cross-border shipping will experience significant problems with the international supply chain.”

Trust Your Cross-Border Freight to VCPB Transportation

At VCPB Transportation, we do what it takes to get cross-border shipments done while remaining focused on our core values: integrity, excellence, innovation, and customer-centricity.

We offer specialized services for the most difficult shipments, including wine and alcohol, which require expert care and attention. Whether you’re importing, exporting, or shipping from state to state, we have you covered.

Moving produce is one of the most delicate and urgent tasks in transportation. We make sure your produce arrives in excellent condition – every time. We utilize the latest temperature-control technology and provide real-time tracking. Our produce shipping experts also are available 24/7/365.

Whatever it is, we’ve got you covered. We also are experts in over-the-road and overweight freight, drayage management, intermodal, and transloading.

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