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Canadian international merchandise trade

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February 2009 (Previous release)

Merchandise exports and imports both advanced in February following three months of rapid declines. Exports rose 5.2% to $33.1 billion as all sectors increased and auto makers resumed production. Meanwhile, imports increased 1.1% to $33.0 billion led by machinery and equipment. This resulted in a small trade surplus of $126 million, up from a deficit of $1.2 billion in January.

Exports and imports

After leading the decline in January, exports of machinery and equipment and automotive products accounted for almost three-quarters of the gain in exports in February. The increase in total exports was due to a 7.0% increase in volume while prices declined 1.7%.

The February gain in imports was primarily supported by machinery and equipment and automotive products, while weaknesses in energy products dampened the growth. Overall, both price (+0.9%) and volume (+0.2%) increased.

Exports to the United States increased 5.0% on the strength of automotive products and precious metals. Imports rose 3.7%, largely reflecting increases in automotive products and aircraft. As a result, Canada's merchandise trade surplus with the United States increased to $3.4 billion in February from $3.0 billion in January.

Note to readers

Merchandise trade is one component of the current account of Canada's balance of payments, which also includes trade in services, investment income and transfers.

International merchandise trade data by country are available on both a balance of payments and a customs basis for the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. Trade data for all other individual countries are available on a customs basis only. Balance of payments data are derived from customs data by making adjustments for characteristics such as valuation, coverage, timing and residency. These adjustments are made to conform to the concepts and definitions of the Canadian System of National Accounts.

Constant dollars referred to in the text are calculated using the Laspeyres volume formula which is current dollars divided by Paasche indexes.


In general, merchandise trade data are revised on an ongoing basis for each month of the current year. Current and previous year revisions are reflected in both the customs and balance of payments based data. Revisions to customs based data for the previous year are also released on a quarterly basis.

Factors influencing revisions include late receipt of import and export documentation, incorrect information on customs forms, replacement of estimates with actual figures, changes in classification of merchandise based on more current information, and changes to seasonal adjustment factors.

Revised data are available in the appropriate CANSIM tables.

Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed to $3.3 billion in February from $4.2 billion in January, as exports increased 5.9% while imports decreased 3.1%. Exports to China, Italy and Australia led the gain in exports to countries other than the United States.

Trade balance

Widespread increases in exports

Machinery and equipment, which grew 8.4% to $8.1 billion, was the largest contributor to the increase in exports. The gain was mainly due to volume increases and followed two consecutive monthly declines. The growth in this sector was driven by a 27.3% advance in aircraft and other transportation equipment exports.

After falling to their lowest level in 17 years in January, exports of automotive products rose 19.8% to $3.5 billion as Canadian car and truck production resumed at most plants in February. Exports of trucks increased 28.2%, more than offsetting the losses sustained over the previous four months. Exports of motor vehicle parts (+19.3%) and passenger autos (+17.4%) also increased in February. The increase in the automotive sector was largely the result of a volume gain.

Aircraft lead the gain in imports

Machinery and equipment led the growth in imports, rising 3.7% to $10.1 billion. The growth was driven by a 27.9% rise in imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment. Softening the gain were industrial and agricultural machinery, which declined for the third straight month.

Imports of automotive products were up 3.2% to $4.1 billion, as both price and volume increased. The gain was mainly attributable to imports of motor vehicle parts, which increased 7.6% in February. This marked the first increase in the automotive sector in five months.

Imports of energy products contracted a further 7.8% to $2.8 billion. This sector has been on a downward trend since July 2008 when the price of a barrel of oil reached nearly US $150. The February decline was due to price and volume reductions. Crude petroleum imports, which slid 16.7% to $1.3 billion, led the decrease.

Available on CANSIM: tables 228-0001 to 228-0003, 228-0033, 228-0034, 228-0041 to 228-0043 and 228-0047 to 228-0057.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 2201, 2202 and 2203.

The February 2009 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 63, no. 2 (65-001-XWE, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website.

Current account data (which incorporate merchandise trade statistics, service transactions, investment income and transfers) are available quarterly in Canada's Balance of International Payments (67-001-XWE, free).

For more information, contact Sharon Nevins (toll-free 1-800-294-5583; 613-951-9798). To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Mychèle Gagnon (613-951-0994), International Trade Division.

Table 1

Merchandise trade
  January 2009r February 2009 January to February 2009 February 2008 to February 2009
  Seasonally adjusted,  $ current
  $ millions % change
Principal trading partners        
United States 23,126 24,274 5.0 -20.7
Japan 905 908 0.3 -9.5
European Union1 2,908 2,816 -3.2 -11.5
Other OECD countries2 1,253 1,334 6.5 -3.1
All other countries 3,247 3,745 15.3 3.5
Total 31,439 33,077 5.2 -16.8
United States 20,097 20,849 3.7 -5.6
Japan 1,070 728 -32.0 -27.2
European Union1 3,280 3,641 11.0 7.2
Other OECD countries2 2,221 1,907 -14.1 -16.9
All other countries 5,923 5,826 -1.6 -10.5
Total 32,591 32,951 1.1 -6.6
United States 3,029 3,425 ... ...
Japan -165 180 ... ...
European Union1 -372 -825 ... ...
Other OECD countries2 -968 -573 ... ...
All other countries -2,676 -2,081 ... ...
Total -1,152 126 ... ...
Principal commodity groupings        
Agricultural and fishing products 3,381 3,446 1.9 8.8
Energy products 6,421 6,458 0.6 -35.6
Forestry products 1,762 1,852 5.1 -14.7
Industrial goods and materials 6,840 7,057 3.2 -22.2
Machinery and equipment 7,427 8,053 8.4 10.0
Automotive products 2,957 3,542 19.8 -37.3
Other consumer goods 1,587 1,623 2.3 22.6
Special transactions trade3 618 607 -1.8 -0.8
Other balance of payments adjustments 446 437 -2.0 -1.6
Agricultural and fishing products 2,569 2,537 -1.2 14.4
Energy products 3,002 2,769 -7.8 -26.2
Forestry products 222 216 -2.7 -11.1
Industrial goods and materials 6,877 6,947 1.0 -4.3
Machinery and equipment 9,721 10,077 3.7 4.1
Automotive products 3,954 4,080 3.2 -37.7
Other consumer goods 5,040 5,094 1.1 13.2
Special transactions trade3 522 537 2.9 42.4
Other balance of payments adjustments 686 695 1.3 -3.3
not applicable
Includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom.
Other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) include Australia, Canada, Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey.
These are mainly low valued transactions, value of repairs to equipment, and goods returned to country of origin.
Totals may not equal the sum of their components.