Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-qcsxw Total loading time: 0.326 Render date: 2022-08-16T17:42:32.683Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Barriers to Trade: How Border Walls Affect Trade Relations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2019

Get access


Since trade must cross borders, to what extent do border walls affect trade flows? We argue that border walls can reduce trade flows. Even if the objective is to only stem illicit flows, border walls heighten “border effects” that can also inhibit legal cross-border flows. Using a gravity model of trade that reflects recent developments in both economic theory and econometrics, we find that the creation of a wall is associated with a reduction in legal trade flows between neighboring countries. We provide a battery of evidence that suggests this reduction is not simply a function of worsening bilateral relations. Our findings have implications for understanding how governments have taken measures to assert sovereign control of their borders in an age of increasing economic globalization.

Research Note
Copyright © The IO Foundation 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Abramson, Scott F, and Carter, David B.. 2016. The Historical Origins of Territorial Disputes. American Political Science Review 110 (4):675–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M., Redding, Stephen J., Sturm, Daniel M., and Wolf, Nikolaus. 2015. The Economics of Density: Evidence from the Berlin Wall. Econometrica 83 (6):2127–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Akera, Jenny C., Klein, Michael W., O'Connell, Stephen A., and Yang, Muzhe. 2014. Borders, Ethnicity and Trade. Journal of Development Economics 107:116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allen, Treb, de Castro Dobbin, Cauê, and Morten, Melanie. 2018. Border Walls. Technical report, National Bureau of Economic Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Amodio, Francesco, Baccini, Leonardo, and Di Maio, Michele. 2017. Security, Trade, and Political Violence. Working paper.Google Scholar
Anderson, James E. 2011. The Gravity Model. Annual Review of Economics 3 (1):133–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, James E., and van Wincoop, Eric. 2003. Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle. American Economic Review 93 (1):170–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Avdan, Nazli, and Gelpi, Christopher F.. 2017. Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? Border Barriers and the Transnational Flow of Terrorist Violence. International Studies Quarterly 61 (1):1427.Google Scholar
Baldwin, Richard, and Taglioni, Daria. 2006. Gravity for Dummies and Dummies for Gravity Equations. Technical Report, National Bureau of Economic Research.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barbieri, Katherine, Keshk, Omar M.G., and Pollins, Brian M.. 2009. Trading Data: Evaluating Our Assumptions and Coding Rules. Conflict Management and Peace Science 26 (5):471–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bautista-Chavez, Angie. 2018. Communication with United States Department of Homeland Security Attaché to Mexico.Google Scholar
Brown, Wendy. 2010. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. MIT Press.Google Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan. 2007. Politics and the Suboptimal Provision of Counterterror. International Organization 61 (1):936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, David B., and Goemans, H.E.. 2011. The Making of the Territorial Order: New Borders and the Emergence of Interstate Conflict. International Organization 65 (2):275310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, David B., and Poast, Paul. 2017. Why Do States Build Walls? Political Economy, Security, and Border Stability. Journal of Conflict Resolution 61 (2):239–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, David B, Poast, Rachel L. and Huth, Paul K.. 2017. Why Do States Build Walls? Political Economy, Security, and Border Stability. Journal of Conflict Resolution 61 (2):239–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, David B, Wellhausen, Rachel L. and Huth, Paul K.. 2018. International Law, Territorial Disputes, and Foreign Direct Investment. International Studies Quarterly 63 (1):5871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clinton, Bill. 1994. Accepting the Immigration Challenge: The President's Report on Immigration. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
Douglas, Ian R. 2000. Globalization and the Retreat of the State. In Globalization and the Politics of Resistance, 110131. Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Freiden, Jeffry, Lake, David A., and Schultz, Kenneth. 2019. World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions. W.W. Norton, 4th ed.Google Scholar
French, Hilary. 2013. Vanishing Borders: Protecting the Planet in the Age of Globalization. Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gavrilis, George. 2008. The Dynamics of Interstate Boundaries. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Getmansky, Anna, Grossman, Guy, and Wright, Austin. 2019. Border Walls and Smuggling Spillovers. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 14 (3):329–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gibler, Douglas M. 2008. International Military Alliances, 1648–2008. CQ Press.Google Scholar
Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. 2002. Expanded Trade and GDP Data. Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (5):712–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Glick, Reuven, and Rose, Andrew K.. 2016. Currency Unions and Trade: A Post-EMU Reassessment. European Economic Review 87:7891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goldstein, Judith L., Rivers, Douglas, and Tomz, Michael. 2007. Institutions in International Relations: Understanding the Effects of the GATT and the WTO on World Trade. International Organization 61 (1):3767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gowa, Joanne. 1994. Allies, Adversaries, and International Trade. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Gowa, Joanne, and Hicks, Raymond. 2013. Politics, Institutions, and Trade: Lessons of the Interwar Era. International Organization 67 (3):439–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Guimarães, Paulo, and Portugal, Pedro. 2010. A Simple Feasible Procedure to Fit Models with High-Dimensional Fixed Effects. Stata Journal 10 (4):628–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hassner, Ron, and Wittenberg, Jason. 2015. Barriers to Entry: Who Builds Fortified Borders and Why? International Security 40 (1):157–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hinrikus, Taavet. 2017. The Fall and Rise of Global Borders. World Economic Forum: Annual Meeting of the New Champions, 26 Jun 2017. Available at <>..>Google Scholar
Huth, Paul K., Croco, Sarah E., and Appel, Benjamin J.. 2011. Does International Law Promote the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes? American Political Science Review 105 (2):415–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Keegan, John. 1993. A History of Warfare. Hutchinson.Google Scholar
Kieck, Erich. 2010. Coordinated Border Management: Unlocking Trade Opportunities Through One Stop Border Posts. World Customs Journal 4 (1):313.Google Scholar
Mansfield, Edward D., and Milner, Helen V.. 2012. Votes, Vetoes, and the Political Economy of International Trade Agreements. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Mansfield, Edward D., Milner, Helen V., and Rosendorff, B. Peter. 2000. Free to Trade: Democracies, Autocracies, and International Trade. American Political Science Review 94 (2):305–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCallum, John. 1995. National Borders Matter: Canada–US Regional Trade Patterns. American Economic Review 85 (3):615–23.Google Scholar
Oneal, John R., and Russett, Bruce. 2001. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. Norton.Google Scholar
Oster, Emily. 2019. Unobservable Selection and Coefficient Stability: Theory and Evidence. Journal of Business and Economic Statistics 37 (2):187204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Peters, Margaret E. 2015. Open Trade, Closed Borders: Immigration in the Era of Globalization. World Politics 67 (1):114–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poast, Paul. 2016. Dyads Are Dead, Long Live Dyads! The Limits of Dyadic Designs in International Relations Research. International Studies Quarterly 60 (2):369–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reuter, Tina. 2018. The Political, Socio-Economic, and Cultural Implications of Man-made, Visible Barriers at International Borders: A Case Study of the US–Mexico Border. “International Barriers in the Globalized World” Workshop. Perry World House, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
Rosière, Stéphane, and Jones, Reece. 2012. Teichopolitics: Re-considering Globalisation Through the Role of Walls and Fences. Geopolitics 17 (1):217–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Silva, J.M.C. Santos, and Tenreyro, Silvana. 2006. The Log of Gravity. The Review of Economics and Statistics 88 (4):641–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Beth A. 2005. Rules over Real Estate: Trade, Territorial Conflict, and International Borders as Institution. Journal of Conflict Resolution 49 (6):823–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Simmons, Beth, and Kenwick, Michael. 2019. Border Orientation in a Globalizing World: Concept and Measurement. Available at SSRN <>.CrossRef.>Google Scholar
Strange, Susan. 1996. The Retreat of the State: The Diffusion of Power in the World Economy. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, William R. 2001. Identifying Rivals and Rivalries in World Politics. International Studies Quarterly 45 (4):557–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vallet, Élisabeth, and David, Charles-Philippe. 2012. Introduction: The (Re) Building of the Wall in International Relations. Journal of Borderlands Studies 27 (2):111–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Bergeijk, Peter A.G. 2014. Economic Diplomacy and the Geography of International Trade. Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
Wilson, John S., Mann, Catherine L., and Otsuki, Tsunehiro. 2003. Trade Facilitation and Economic Development: A New Approach to Quantifying the Impact. The World Bank Economic Review 17 (3):367–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Carter and Poast supplementary material

Carter and Poast supplementary material

Download Carter and Poast supplementary material(File)
File 33 MB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Barriers to Trade: How Border Walls Affect Trade Relations
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Barriers to Trade: How Border Walls Affect Trade Relations
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Barriers to Trade: How Border Walls Affect Trade Relations
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *