In the National Interest: The U.S. Presidential Permit Process, Cross-border Trade and the U.S. Economy

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Project Background
The U.S. Presidential Permit process is a U.S. federal government process for determining whether a proposed cross-border infrastructure project is in the national interest of the United States and may proceed. The process often involves numerous U.S. federal agencies as well as a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review. The process culminates in a National Interest Determination by the U.S. Department of State.

In 2016, the George W. Bush Institute’s Economic Growth program asked the North American Research Partnership to examine the Presidential Permit process and specifically its economic impact on the United States. The resulting study, In the National Interest: The U.S. Presidential Permit Process, Cross-border Trade and the U.S. Economy, attempts to answer that question and also examines a number of significant impacts to the U.S. economy of cross-border infrastructure, including land ports of entry, oil and gas pipelines and electrical transmission lines.

While this is a not an exhaustive study, our review finds that there is currently no standardized economic impact analysis performed as part of the Presidential permit process, making it difficult to ascertain a) if the proposed projects are as individual projects in the United States’ national economic interest and b) to what degree the entire Presidential permit process itself is effective as a policy in helping to develop economically beneficial cross-border infrastructure projects. In addition, we find a low-threshold economic impact to the United States of at least $993.7 billion annually.

Further research is required to fully articulate the economic impact of cross-border infrastructure as well as the Presidential permit process itself. Clearly, a more comprehensive understanding of the economic impact of cross-border infrastructure is needed in order for all stakeholders involved to understand whether a particular project is in the national interest.