TD 6-1c: U.S. Merchandise Trade With Canada and Mexico by Mode of Transportation (Dollars) (Millions of current U.S. dollars)

  United States

For a detailed documentation on U.S. international trade data, see the U.S. Census Bureau’s Guide to Foreign Trade Statistics (available at

Trade statistics covering goods movements between the United States, Canada, and Mexico are separately reported by each country. Although the data covers the same movement of goods to and from each country, differences exist in the official trade statistics. Data on the value of trade differ in part because of the following differences in coverage; how each country treats transshipment of goods (e.g., shipments from the United States to Germany passing through Canada), in-transit shipments (e.g., shipments from Canada to Mexico passing through the United States), low-value shipments, re-exports (e.g., shipments from Japan that enter the United States, are stored for a short time, and then forwarded to Canada), data filing requirements, and data processing requirements. The way in which each country handles these issues results in different official trade numbers reported by each country for the same movement of goods. The differences exist at the country, commodity, and mode of transportation levels. For example, Canadian imports are based on country of origin so U.S. goods shipped from a third country (such as Mexico) into Canada are included as U.S. goods. Conversely, official U.S. exports to Canada exclude any such shipments. Also, the United States does not require information to be filed for “low-value” international shipments (less than $2,001 for imports and $2,501 for exports). While these shipments account for a relatively small proportion of overall trade and the United States estimates the value of such goods, differences in how each country handles these shipments result in discrepancies in official trade statistics.

The trade data differences between the United States and Canada have been reduced due to the trade data exchange initiated by the two countries in 1987 and begun in 1990. Under this exchange agreement, as described in further detail below, each country only collects imports data and then swaps with the other country to create the country’s export data. The trade data differences between the United States and Mexico have been consistent due to the factors listed above.

Merchandise trade, data collection and sources: Data on the value of U.S. air, maritime and land imports and exports are captured from administrative documents required by the Departments of Commerce and Treasury. In 1990, the United States entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Canada concerning the exchange of import data. As a consequence, each country is using the other’s import data to replace its own export data. The United States’ international merchandise trade statistics are, therefore, no longer derived exclusively from the administrative records of the Departments of Commerce and Treasury, but from Revenue Canada, Customs and Excise as well. Historically, merchandise trade data were obtained from import and export paper documents that the U.S. Customs Service collected at a port of entry or exit. However, an increasing amount of import and export statistical information is now being captured electronically. Approximately 98 percent of U.S. import and 60 percent of U.S. export data are collected electronically.

Merchandise trade, definitions: Data represent merchandise trade activity between the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada and Mexico. These statistics do not include traffic between Guam, Wake Island and American Samoa and Canada and Mexico.

Valuation of imports and exports: Import values represent the value of merchandise for duty (or Customs) purposes. It is usually the selling price in the foreign country of origin, and excludes freight costs, insurance and other charges incurred in bringing the merchandise from the foreign port of export to the United States. For exports to all countries except Canada, export values represent the value of the merchandise, usually the selling price, plus insurance, inland freight costs and other charges incurred in bringing the merchandise to the U. S. port of export. This is generally called the f.a.s. (free alongside ship) value. These export values exclude the cost of loading the merchandise aboard the exporting carrier at the port of export and also exclude freight, insurance, and any charges or transportation costs beyond the U.S. port of exportation. Because the United States does not collect information for U.S. exports to Canada from its own trade documents, the value of these exports represents the transaction value of the merchandise, plus a Statistics Canada imputed estimate of the costs of insurance, inland freight and other charges. The Statistics Canada estimate is based on 4.5 percent of the export merchandise transaction value.

Method of Transportation: Method of transportation is based on the method of transportation in use when the merchandise arrived at the U.S. Customs port of entry or departed a U.S. Customs port of exit. In some instances, shipments between the United States and countries abroad enter or depart the United States through Canada or Mexico. These are called transshipments. Such transshipments are recorded under the method of transportation by which they enter or depart a U.S. Customs port regardless of the transportation mode used between Canada or Mexico and the final country of origin or destination. For U.S. exports via Canada to other overseas countries, the mode reported would be the mode used to cross the U.S./Canadian border. If, for example, export shipments that are destined for the United Kingdom travel by truck through Buffalo/Niagara Falls, NY, and are then shipped by water from a Canadian port to the United Kingdom, the mode reported in U.S. international trade data would be truck.

Surface trade value data are not available from 1990 to 1994. While these data are available for 1995 and 1996, they include transshipment data that cannot be separated (making the sum of the parts greater than the official total published by the Census Bureau). For the time period April 1993 through December 1996, transshipments were included in official U.S. trade data for land modes of transportation, and it is impossible to exclude these transshipments at an individual modal level. Because the land modes include transshipment data, the sum of the modal categories exceeds total U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico for 1995 and 1996. Moreover, it is not possible to calculate modal percentage shares for 1995 and 1996. Beginning in January 1997, transshipments are no longer included in the U.S. trade figures for land modes of transportation. Thus, the modal shares for 1997 can be calculated. The 1997 modal shares for total U.S. merchandise trade with Canada and Mexico are: air (5.8 percent); water (4.6 percent); road (68.0 percent); rail (14.7 percent); pipeline (3 percent); and other (3.9 percent).

In contrast to transshipments, intransit shipments are goods declared by the shipper as moving through the United States from one foreign country to another and are not included in the official U.S. international merchandise trade statistics, and therefore are not included in this data for this table. In a North American context, intransit shipments would include, for example, a Canadian export to Mexico that moves by truck through the United States. This type of activity, again, is not considered to be part of U.S. international trade and is not reflected in official U.S. merchandise trade statistics, or in the data in this table.

The following modes are included in U.S. merchandise trade statistics: air, maritime vessel, truck, rail, pipeline, government mail, flyaway aircraft (aircraft moving from the aircraft manufacturer to a customer and not carrying any freight), powerhouse electricity, pedestrians carrying freight, foreign trade zones (for imports only) miscellaneous and unknown. Data for land modes (i.e., truck, rail, pipeline, mail and other) of transportation are nonexistent prior to April 1993. Government mail, flyaway aircraft, powerhouse electricity, pedestrians carrying freight, foreign trade zones, miscellaneous and unknown methods of transportation have not been included as specific categories for U.S. merchandise trade in Sections 6 and 7 of this publication. However, these modes of transportation are included in the overall U.S. merchandise trade figures