Trade using surface transportation modes between the United States and its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners Canada and Mexico increased by 6.2 percent in 2012 compared to 2011, valued at $960 billion in 2012, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The $960 billion in U.S.-NAFTA surface mode trade was the highest annual amount since NAFTA went into effect in 1994. BTS, a part of the Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), reported that U.S. imports by surface mode increased 5.6 percent in 2012 from 2011, while surface-based exports increased 6.9 percent during the same period.
During the recession period of December 2007 to June 2009, U.S. trade carried by surface modes to and from Mexico declined less than trade with Canada and also rebounded faster. The value of U.S.-Mexico surface trade declined 14.4 percent in 2009 from 2008, and then increased by 61.0 percent in the next three years to reach a level in 2012 that was 37.8 percent higher than in 2008. The value of U.S.-Canada surface trade declined 28.1 percent in 2009 from 2008, and then increased by 44.2 percent in the next three years to reach a level in 2012 that was only 3.6 higher than in 2008. As a result, U.S.-Mexico trade comprised 42.1 percent of North American surface freight trade in 2012, compared to 35.3 percent in 2008.
In 2012, 86.5 percent of U.S. merchandise trade by value with Canada and Mexico entered or exited the country by surface mode of transportation. Total North American surface transportation trade is up by 50.8 percent since 2009, when U.S.-NAFTA trade fell to a recent low during the recession. In 2009, U.S.-NAFTA trade decreased by 23.3 percent from the previous year.
U.S.-Canada surface transportation trade totaled $556.2 billion in 2012, an increase of 3.6 percent compared to 2011. The value of goods transported by rail had the largest year-to-year increase. Imports carried by rail were 7.4 percent higher in 2012 than 2011 while the value of exports carried by rail was 11.8 percent higher. The value of pipeline imports and exports decreased, dropping 4.3 and 2.3 percent respectively in 2012 compared to 2011.
U.S.-Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $403.9 billion in 2012, an increase of 10.0 percent compared to 2011. Similar to the trend on the northern border, the value of goods transported by rail had the highest year to year increase. Imports carried by rail were 14.3 percent higher in 2012 than 2011, while the value of exports carried by rail was 11.1 percent higher. However, the value of U.S.-Mexico pipeline trade was down in 2012 compared to 2011; imports decreased by 23.8 percent and exports decreased by 2.1 percent.