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Patterns of Economic Development


The United States is by far the leading trade partner for both Canada and Mexico, which in turn are significant, but not dominant, trade partners of the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect January 1, 1994, outlined the elimination of trade barriers between the three nations over the following 15 years. In 1997 NAFTA countries had a combined population of more than 395 million and a combined gross domestic product of $8.9 trillion. NAFTA forms one of the two largest free trade zones in the world. The organization is expected to add member nations from the region.

Primary U.S. exports are machinery, motor vehicles, foodstuffs, chemicals, and aircraft. Canada ships mainly motor vehicles, machinery, metal and metal ore, forest products, chemicals, and foodstuffs, and the major exports of Mexico are crude petroleum, coffee, and metal ore. At the end of the 1980s the value of Canada's annual exports exceeded that of its imports, whereas the United States and Mexico regularly paid more for imports than their exports earned. The United States ranks among the world's leading trading countries in terms of the total value of imports and exports.

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