This paper was published as a Faculty Working Paper (no. 223) for the Lubin School of Business, Center for Applied Research, October 2006.

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While analyses of "North American integration" after NAFTA continue to stress outdated notions of country-to-country trade and the exchange of finished products across national borders, our paper starts from the premise that what we have now is a single, integrated regional economic system whose expansion has followed the pace and contours of business strategies emphasizing continentally-integrated supply chains, but whose management via regulatory and policy coordination has lagged dangerously behind. Most dangerous of all has been the massive gap between our region's infrastructure needs – ports, transportation, and borders – and what has been coordinated and facilitated by the public sector. In this paper we investigate this current impasse from the point of view of reframing the competition with Asia's export giants – in particular China – as an impetus to enhance the competitive edge not of our national economies but rather of the regional economic system as a whole. We highlight the potential for synergy between the dynamism of cross-border regions such as the Pacific Northwest and their "gateway" strategies of coping with booming trade with Asia, on the one hand, and the aim of enhancing North American regional competitiveness via a more rationalized and effective continental transportation and infrastructure strategy. For example, British Columbia's plans to expand the Prince Rupert port facility, or the West Coast Corridor Coalition's plans for transportation links "from B.C. [British Columbia] to B.C. [Baja California]" would do well to explore their potential to connect with developing transportation networks and trade corridors in the center of the continent, as well as emerging export centers on the Eastern seaboard (Halifax/Atlantica), and on Mexico's Pacific coast. In keeping with North America's unique integration pattern – decentralized and business-driven – this focus on cross-border regions and public-private partnerships could bridge the infrastructure gap, linking local concerns with greater continental prosperity.