Monday, June 25, 2012

Neil Reynolds: “A bridge too far”, indeed


Neil Reynolds writes: The Ambassador Bridge, all by itself, carries more trade than the United States carries with all of Europe. As Christopher Sands, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said in this context: ‘If al-Qaeda had understood [the importance of the Windsor-Detroit crossing], it would have done more damage to the U.S. economy by destroying this bridge than the World Trade Center in New York.’”

In addition to the quote about Al Qaeda, Reynolds appears to have borrowed the trade comparison from the right wing Hudson Institute’s Chris Sands.  While he puts quotation marks around Sands’ observation about Al Qaeda, he omits citation of Sands as the source of his comparison statistics.  

Sands:  “The Ambassador Bridge, then and now, carries more trade between the United States and Canada in any given year than the United States conducts with all of Europe. If al Qaeda had understood this, they would have done more damage to the U.S. economy by destroying this bridge than the World Trade Center in New York”.

But there appears to be a problem with the figures (first noted by an astute commenter at the Globe's website).  According to reports like these, “In 2011, the volume of trade between the U.S. and the European Union was $986 billion” -  considerably higher than the Ambassador Bridge numbers. 

Bridge supporters (including Minister John Baird) state that, “Two-way trade between the U.S. and Canada is nearly $2 billion per day and the Detroit-Windsor corridor handles 30 percent of trade, approximately $130 billion per year, between the U.S. and Canada”.

Forbes magazine puts the number slightly lower: “$524 billion in cross-border trade in 2010. About $120 billion worth of goods cross the Detroit River each year”.

And other sources put the volume of trade the Ambassador carries at only 25 percent:
The Detroit-Windsor corridor carries about 25 percent of the trade between the U.S. and Canada each day.  The same sources put the volume of U.S./Canada trade at $1.5 billion.

Whatever the exact figures – whether $100 billion or $130 billion – the yearly volume of U.S./Canada trade across the Ambassador Bridge does not appear to equal to the roughly $986 billion in U.S./European trade.  Unless of course Mr. Reynolds can cite a credible source for those statistics (as he is required to do). 

Update - A correction was appended to the online version of Reynolds’ article late this afternoon:

"The United States trades more with Europe than with Canada. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story and in Monday's original print version".

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