This paper was published as a Faculty Working Paper (no. 219A) for the Lubin School of Business, Center for Applied Research, May 2006.

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The North American economic system cannot be meaningfully visualized in terms of trade among three nations. A more accurate and useful map would focus on the elements of deep structural integration that distinguish the North American economy—on continental production, distribution and supply chain systems characteristic of many North American industries, on emerging cross-border regional development projects, and on "trade corridors" that link major transportation and production hubs. This paper examines the North American trade corridor phenomenon. The great increase in the volume of materials moving north and south has generated competition among businesses, cities, and municipalities to build channels for these flows. Trade corridors thus illustrate a dialogue between firms seeking to build greater efficiencies into their production systems and supply chains and groups of local business and metropolitan government leaders offering solutions to help create these efficiencies. The paper suggests we can best understand North American trade corridors as strategies developed by business and municipal government leaders to create these solutions.