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Canadian border closure affects commerce on macro and micro scale

Suzanne Smith, owner of clothing store Betty Be Good Boutique.
Courtesy of Suzanne Smith
Suzanne Smith, owner of clothing store Betty Be Good Boutique.

At slightly over 5,500 miles, the U.S.-Canada border is the longest undefended boundary in the world. The closure of that border, except for commercial and essential traffic, is having an impact.

The United States Trade Representative estimates that $718.5 billion in all types of trade crossed the U.S.-Canada border in 2018. That is more than $2 billion a day. That’s a lot of trade activity coming to a grinding halt. 

And effects are being felt by retailers in Whatcom County, too. 

Suzanne Smith owns a pair of women's clothing stores — the Betty Be Good Boutique — in both Birch Bay, near Blaine and Lynden. She also lives two blocks from the border in Surrey, British Columbia. The Birch Bay store is temporarily closed.

Going across the line, as it is commonly called here, has not ever been a problem.
But not being able to physically be in the stores now means she is relying on her small staff to keep the business going.

“I can't even cross the border and visit my business,” Smith said. “I can't run things day to day down there, I'm relying completely on my staff, which has been a vulnerable position for any business owner to just, you know, kind of let go. But those girls have really stepped up. And I've been really appreciative to them.”

The Peace Arch border crossing is a short walk from Smith’s house in Surrey. Ironically, one inscription on the Peace Arch monument itself says “May These Gates Never Be Closed.” And now for her, that is exactly what has happened. 

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