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Canadian international merchandise trade

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August 2009 (Previous release)

Canada's merchandise exports and imports both fell in August, after gains in July. Exports declined 5.1%, as a result of a 5.0% reduction in volumes. Imports decreased 2.8% as import volumes edged down 0.3%. Consequently, Canada's trade deficit widened to $2.0 billion in August from $1.3 billion in July.

Exports and imports

After two consecutive months of increases, exports fell to $29.2 billion in August from $30.8 billion in July. Exports declined in all sectors, led by machinery and equipment, agricultural and fishing products, industrial goods and materials, and automotive products.

Following a 9.4% gain to $32.1 billion in July, imports declined to $31.2 billion in August. This decrease was the result of a 2.6% reduction in prices. Machinery and equipment accounted for half of the decrease in imports. Energy products, other consumer goods and industrial goods and materials also contributed to the decrease. Gains in imports of automotive products moderated the decline.

Since reaching record highs in July 2008, exports and imports have generally been trending downward. Since July 2008, export volumes have fallen by 21.3% and prices have declined by 16.3%. In comparison, import volumes have fallen by 18.1% while prices have decreased by 3.5%. However, since April 2009, import volumes have generally been on the rise while import prices have fallen rapidly. During the same period, the decline in export volumes and prices has slowed down.

Exports to the United States fell 3.2% while imports declined 3.3% in August. As a result, Canada posted a trade surplus with the United States of $2.2 billion, basically unchanged from July.

Note to readers

Merchandise trade is one component of Canada's international balance of payments, which also includes trade in services, investment income, current transfers as well as capital and financial flows.

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.


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

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.

Exports to countries other than the United States decreased 10.6%. Imports declined 2.0%, mostly as a result of lower imports from the European Union. Consequently, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States increased to $4.2 billion in August from $3.5 billion in July.

Trade balance

Lower volumes account for declining exports

Exports of machinery and equipment fell 10.4% to $6.2 billion, erasing the gains posted in July. The decline reflected a 10.7% contraction in volumes. Although the declines in the sector were widespread, exports of aircraft and telecommunication equipment led the decrease.

Exports of agricultural and fishing products fell 10.3% to $2.8 billion, largely the result of a 7.9% decline in volumes. Lower exports of canola, wheat and vegetable products accounted for most of the drop.

Exports of industrial goods and materials decreased 3.3% to $6.2 billion, as volumes fell 6.5%. The main contributing factor in this sector was declining exports of crude non-metallic minerals. Exports of metal ores, with the exception of copper ores, were also down in August.

Exports of automotive products declined 5.5% to $3.5 billion. Exports of trucks and other motor vehicles were down 35.1%, reflecting truck manufacturing plant closures. Since August 2008, exports of trucks and other motor vehicles have fallen 75.8%. Exports of motor vehicle parts and passenger autos also declined in August.

Half the decline in imports is attributed to machinery and equipment

Imports of machinery and equipment declined 4.9% to $9.0 billion, after strong gains in July. The decline was mostly due to a 3.8% reduction in prices. The decreases were widespread, with aircraft and other transportation equipment accounting for half of the decline.

After four months of growth, imports of energy products declined 9.8% to $2.9 billion. Imports of crude petroleum fell 12.0%, due to volume reductions. Petroleum and coal products also decreased, mainly the result of lower imports of motor gasoline.

Imports of other consumer goods decreased 4.9% to $4.6 billion. While the declines were widespread, reduced imports of medicinal and pharmaceutical products, and outdoor clothing were mostly responsible for the decrease.

Imports of industrial goods and materials contracted 3.4% to $5.8 billion, largely due to a decrease in imports of chemical products. Higher imports of precious metals partly offset the decline in this sector.

Imports of automotive products rose 3.8% to $5.0 billion, due to volumes rising 4.9%. Truck and other motor vehicle imports increased 26.1%, in an effort to replenish inventories and compensate for vehicles no longer produced in Canada.

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 August 2009 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 63, no. 8 (65-001-X, 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-X, 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
  July 2009r August 2009 July to August 2009 August 2008 to August 2009
  Seasonally adjusted, $ current
  $ millions % change
Principal trading partners        
United States 22,580 21,866 -3.2 -31.9
Japan 780 637 -18.3 -43.0
European Union1 2,409 2,251 -6.6 -35.2
Other OECD countries2 1,566 1,301 -16.9 -28.2
All other countries 3,466 3,163 -8.7 -24.2
Total 30,801 29,217 -5.1 -31.6
United States 20,368 19,693 -3.3 -17.4
Japan 790 835 5.7 -8.9
European Union1 3,319 2,986 -10.0 -23.9
Other OECD countries2 2,311 2,471 6.9 2.6
All other countries 5,329 5,217 -2.1 -18.3
Total 32,117 31,202 -2.8 -16.7
United States 2,212 2,173 ... ...
Japan -10 -198 ... ...
European Union1 -910 -735 ... ...
Other OECD countries2 -745 -1,170 ... ...
All other countries -1,863 -2,054 ... ...
Total -1,316 -1,985 ... ...
Principal commodity groupings        
Agricultural and fishing products 3,135 2,813 -10.3 -17.7
Energy products 6,562 6,559 0.0 -41.3
Forestry products 1,578 1,524 -3.4 -27.5
Industrial goods and materials 6,463 6,248 -3.3 -38.5
Machinery and equipment 6,914 6,195 -10.4 -21.2
Automotive products 3,737 3,532 -5.5 -31.6
Other consumer goods 1,492 1,429 -4.2 -10.3
Special transactions trade3 511 520 1.8 -31.7
Other balance of payments adjustments 411 397 -3.4 -13.5
Agricultural and fishing products 2,463 2,476 0.5 0.7
Energy products 3,256 2,936 -9.8 -35.0
Forestry products 191 191 0.0 -21.1
Industrial goods and materials 5,962 5,758 -3.4 -27.5
Machinery and equipment 9,407 8,950 -4.9 -12.3
Automotive products 4,865 5,049 3.8 -14.1
Other consumer goods 4,875 4,634 -4.9 -6.1
Special transactions trade3 418 533 27.5 0.4
Other balance of payments adjustments 680 676 -0.6 -12.8
not applicable
The European Union 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.