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The Canadian–United States Boundaries Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Sep 21st, 2019


The Canadian–United States boundary formally referred to as the global border, is the greatest boundary in the world. The global border, consisting of small sections of marine borders on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic shorelines, over and above the Great Lakes is 8,891 kilometres in length, including 2,475 kilometres connecting with Alaska.

People from both states who own land neighbouring the boundary are obliged to inform the governments about any erection of physical boundary passing their land. The International border committee ensures that this is achieved. Where necessary, barriers or automobile barricades are utilized.

Each individual crossing the boundary is required to inform the relevant customs and migration bureaus in each state. In secluded regions where personnel boundary crossings are not accessible, there are secreted sensors on roads and placed in woody regions next to crossing terminals and on various trails and railways.

However, there are no sufficient boundary staffs on either side to authenticate and impede corresponding incursions. In recent years, Canadian bureaucrats have protested as regards to drug, cigarette and weaponry trafficking from the United States whereas the US administrators have criticized drug trafficking from Canada1.

In 2005 for instance, law implementation staff detained three people who had erected a 360-foot passageway under the boundary between British Columbia and Washington that they planned to utilize for smuggling marijuana.


In the current international system, states exist according to the Hobbestian state of nature meaning that life is brutal, short-lived and anarchical. Each state is concerned about the national interests. In this case, the two states that is, the US and Canada are always playing a zero-sum game.

The US intends to benefit from the relationship whereas Canada wants to reap maximally from the relationship. It is not surprising that the two states would come up with foreign policies that try to outsmart those of the other.

In other words, there is no Leviathan in the international system, which can guarantee peace and harmony. The existing body that is, the International border commission is too weak and it only exists as long as the states exist. This paper observes that the two states should abandon the strategies targeting a zero-sum game and adopt win-win strategies.

For this to happen, the US should think about the benefits of cooperation and suspend its national interest, which is related to border security. Strict measures at the border are not safe for trade. Free movement of goods and services should be enhanced to speed up the process of national development in both states2.

The main hypothesis would therefore be “Free movement of goods, services and people is beneficial to the US and Canada”. This hypothesis is reinforced by other premises arguing that border security is an expensive understanding that would cost the two states millions of dollars but national interests would not be achieved.

This paper seeks to refute the popular notion that maintaining a tight security at the border would benefit a state both economically and socio-politically. The paper observes that barring people from trading with the international community would be suicidal to the growth and development of the economy.

For the two states, it would be tragic since they are the centres of power in the global system, both politically and economically. Blocking the borders is therefore a defective policy for the two states in case their economies are to perform strongly in the global market.

Relations between the Two States

According to the World-Systems theory, the international system is divided into three, including the core, the periphery, and the semi-periphery. The core is the leader of the world economy while the periphery comprises of the third world, whose economies are still emerging.

The semi-periphery is in-between the core and the periphery. Their economies are not performing poorly as compared to those of the periphery. In this case, the US and Canada depend on each other for the stability of their economies. In fact, their financial systems are more stable as compared to those of other developed states.

This is attributable to the high-intensity trade that has been taking place between the two states since the Second World War3. Canada embraced the ideas of the US after the Second World War and decided to engage it in commerce. Through this association, Canada has been able to develop economically.

The US on the other hand boosts of a large market since it is free to distribute goods freely within the region, including Canada. Developing some barriers would be detrimental to the economies and the position of the two states in the international system.

It is established that the interaction of the two states is very important as far as regional integration is concerned. The stability of North American region depends on the willingness of the two states to cooperate in terms of economic and political aspects.

Since the September 11 attack, the US was forced to change its approaches as regards to foreign relations. The US was more preoccupied with the issue of security to an extent of suspecting economic relations between itself and Canada. It was mandatory for the officials to evaluate the policies in order to achieve national security.

As one scholar noted, the two states adopted the policy of bi-national in 1999 in order to achieve certain goals and aims4.

The two states came up with three policies, which included synchronization of managing strategies, development of teamwork with an aim of enhancing efficiencies in migration, enforcement of rules, customs, and safeguarding the atmosphere, and partnership in terms of security issues.

Through utilization of these three doctrines in the bi-national administration of the boundary, policy makers in the two states were extremely hopeful that free movement of people, goods and services would generate a profitable relationship that encourages financial development, as well as increasing security across the boundary.

However, as earlier noted, the September 11 radical assault distorted the precedence of the United States5.

Martins claims that the United States stiffened security controls at the boundary after the September 11, which led to negative financial effects because both states utilized millions of dollars on defense6. Furthermore, such polices slowed down the distribution of products due to inspection.

Therefore, the question being asked by many scholars is whether the two states need to focus on border safety at the expense of a profitable trade. To counter this query, this essay scrutinizes the importance of free movement of goods. The paper further evaluates the effects of border security on trade.

Importance of Free Movement of Goods and People

In the current international system, it is legal to enter into trade negotiations with other states in order to bolster the economy. Border trade specifically refers to the kind of trade that takes place in regions experiencing easy border crossings.

Furthermore, it entails movement of goods from one region experiencing excesses to other regions experiencing deficits. In this case, goods might be cheaper in one place and very expensive in others. Inter-state trade allows manufacturers to take their commodities to regions experiencing shortages. In this case, profits would be maximized.

In the North American region, the two states that is, the US and Canada have varied taxation systems. Tobacco and Alcohol are taxed highly in the United States. Therefore, it would be prudent for manufactures to take the two commodities to Canada where taxation is a bit low.

Through this, profits would be maximized. Due to security purposes, cross border limitations would hamper this kind of association, leading to losses on the part of manufactures.

Inter-state trade leads to the formation of regional blocs and organizations. For instance, the North American region formed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which condensed the obstacles and taxes that usually affect businesses. Cross-border trade is beneficial to both retailers and consumers.

To retailers and manufacturers, the market is extensive. On the side of customers, individuals have the opportunity to select products that suit their needs well. The market in this case operates according to its on logics.

Consumers would have the chance of picking commodities that satisfy them using the available resources7. Through this, the economies of the two states are stabilized. In 2008, goods worth $2 billion were traded in the between the US and Canada.

Another advantage of cross-border trade is that individuals benefit from currency volatility. Therefore, restricting people from moving freely would be costly in the region.

Effects of Cross-border Regulations

Political economists argue that closing the borders would be dangerous for both Canada and the US. The two states should not try to temper with the economy of the region by closing or advocating for the closure of the borders. Scholars of political economy argue that the state should never interfere with the activities of the economy.

They however concede that the state should only intervene in case the market experiences some turmoil. Controlling the population from moving from one state to another violates their rights of seeking employment opportunities. In fact, it is factual that people would try moving to other places through unscrupulous means, which are even dangerous.

Others die while trying to reach the US. In Europe, the European Union allows people and services to move freely8. This has improved the economies of weaker states such as Romania and has augmented the economies of the developed nations such as Germany and France. Such movements in Europe are constructive hence the US and Canada should emulate.

In case the two governments attempt to close the borders, the security would be compromised further because people would come up with alternative migration routes. In other words, immigration control only worsens the security of the region.

Underground or illegal immigrations have worse effects as compared to legal migration because it affects both the government and the society. Insecurity in society would be compromised since the illegal immigrants are not known by the security agencies.

For instance, the number of people hiring the services of coyote in the Mexican border has increased recently. Therefore, opening the border between Canada and the US would boost the economy of the region and enhance security. In a study conducted recently, the findings concluded that the US has been benefiting from immigration since 1990 to 20049.

Through immigration, the wages of Americans increased by a reasonable percentage meaning that the living standards of many would depreciate in case borders are closed. Generally, closing the borders would impede growth in the region.

However, some scholars believe that opening the borders would minimize the chances of success for many Americans. Some think that foreigners would grab the few opportunities available for Americans since the global world very competitive.

A minority in society holds this view. It therefore follows that migration is constructive for both states hence tempering with it would be harmful their economies.


The US and Canada have always enjoyed a positive relationship since independence. After the Second World War, the Canadian authorities embraced capitalism and decided to support the US because of its ideas. The US accepted Canada as its trading partner and was quick to allow Canadian products to be traded in the state.

In the same way, Canada allowed American goods to be traded within its territory. This shows that the two states enjoyed a cordial relationship until 2001 when terrorists attacked the US.

After the September 11 attack, the US changed its foreign policies towards Canada. It introduced checkpoints in various places, which has always affected trade. It is recommended that such restrictions are not good for the two states.

Reference List

  1. Andreas P. A Tale of Two Borders: The U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada Lines After 9-11. The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. 2003: 1-15.
  2. Fergusson I. United States-Canada Trade and Economic Relationships: Prospects and Challenges. Congressional Research Service. 2008. [cited 2012 March 22]: 1-26. Web.
  3. Forest J. Homeland Security: Borders and Points of Entry. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group; 2006.
  4. Friedman KA. The Border After 9/11- Security Trumps All. Policy Options [internet]. 2010. [cited 2012 March 22]. 51-55. Web.
  5. Lennox TD. A Smarter Border Starts at the Airport. Policy Options [internet]. 2011 March [cited 2012 March 22]: 67-91. Web.
  6. Martin P. The Mounting Costs of Securing the “Undefended” Border. Policy Options [Internet]. 2006 July-August [cited 2006 November 17]. 15-18. Web.
  7. Meyers D. Does “Smarter” Lead to Safer? An Assessment of the US Border Accords with Canada and Mexico. International Migration. 2003; 41(4): 5- 44.
  8. Schott J, Smith M, editors. The Cana-United Sates Free Trade Agreement: The Global Impact. New York: Institute for Research on Public Policy; 1988.
  9. Vance A. Strategic Responses by Canadian and U.S Exporters to Increased U.S Border Security Measures: A firm-level Analysis. Canada-United States Trade Center. 2008. [cited 2012 March 22]: 1-32.
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