Canadian international merchandise trade

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February 2011 (Previous release)

Canada's merchandise exports and imports fell in February, led by lower volumes of automotive products and energy products. Exports fell 4.9% to $35.9 billion while imports decreased 4.0% to $35.8 billion. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus went from $382 million in January to $33 million in February.

Exports and imports

After four consecutive months of growth, exports fell as a result of volumes declining 5.2%. Although volumes declined in all sectors, those of energy products (-8.1%) and automotive products (-12.4%) were the main contributors to the decline in overall exports. Prices increased 0.3% in February.

Import volumes fell 4.3% while prices edged up 0.2%. As was the case with exports, falling volumes of automotive products (-12.4%) and energy products (-12.7%) accounted for most of the decline in the value of imports.

Imports from the United States fell 6.1%, reflecting lower imports of automotive products. Exports declined 3.5%, after four consecutive months of growth. Canada's trade surplus with the United States increased from $4.1 billion in January to $4.6 billion in February.

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.

Data in this release are on a balance of payments basis, seasonally adjusted in current dollars. Constant dollars 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 produced for the energy sector 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 fell 8.5%, mostly a result of lower exports of precious metals to the European Union. At the same time, imports declined 0.7%. Thus, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $3.8 billion in January to $4.5 billion in February.

Trade balance

Exports fall in six of the seven sectors

Exports of energy products fell 8.0% to $8.8 billion in February, as a result of lower volumes. The decline in value and volume followed four consecutive months of growth. Exports of crude petroleum decreased 6.9%, reflecting higher inventories in the United States. This decline followed a 71.3% advance from September 2010 to January 2011. Exports of petroleum and coal products, namely diesel fuel and light oil preparation, also decreased, as some refineries experienced problems during the month.

Following a 16.0% increase in January, exports of automotive products fell 12.3% to $4.5 billion in February. The decline was a result of falling volumes. Passenger autos, down 15.8%, accounted for over three-quarters of the decrease in the sector.

Exports of industrial goods and materials decreased 3.0% to $9.3 billion, as volumes declined. Exports of precious metals fell 12.1%, after reaching a record high in January, and were the main factor behind the decline in the sector. Lower exports of nickel ores also contributed to the decrease.

Exports of agricultural and fishing products increased 1.3% to $3.2 billion, as prices rose. The gain was led by higher exports of other cereals, unmilled; other food, feed, beverage and tobacco products; as well as exports of canola, which reached unprecedented levels in February.

Widespread declines in imports

Imports of automotive products fell 12.5% to $5.6 billion in February, as a result of lower volumes. This decline partially offset the increase in January. Imports of motor vehicle parts, down 14.5%, accounted for over half of the decline. Imports of trucks also fell during the month.

Imports of energy products declined 9.4% to $3.9 billion, as volumes fell. Imports of crude petroleum decreased 8.4%, following three months of growth. Imports of petroleum and coal products fell, mostly as a result of lower imports of aviation fuel and motor gasoline.

Imports of machinery and equipment decreased 2.3% to $9.8 billion, nearly offsetting the gain recorded in January. After leading the growth in January, aircraft were the main contributors to the decline in the sector.

Imports of industrial goods and materials declined 1.6% to $7.5 billion, as imports of precious metals fell for a third consecutive month. Imports of chemicals and plastics, especially organic chemicals, also decreased in February.

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

The merchandise imports and exports data in the following tables are presented in dollar values.

Tables 228-0001 to 228-0003: Customs and balance of payments basis, by major groups and principal trading areas for all countries; monthly, quarterly, and annual.

Table 228-0033: Imports, customs-based, by province of clearance, monthly.

Table 228-0034: Domestic exports, customs-based, by province of origin, monthly.

Tables 228-0041 to 228-0043: Customs and balance of payments basis, by sector and sub-sector, for all countries; monthly, quarterly, and annual.

The merchandise imports and exports data in the following tables are indexes (2002=100).

Tables 228-0047 to 228-0049: Balance of payments and customs-based price and volume indexes for all countries; monthly, quarterly, and annual.

Tables 228-0050 to 228-0052: Customs-based price indexes, Canada and United States trade, and Standard International Trade Classification (SITC revision 3) price indexes for all countries and United States; monthly, quarterly, and annual.

Tables 228-0053 to 228-0055: Price and volume indexes customs and balance of payments basis, by sector and sub-sector, for all countries; monthly, quarterly, and annual.

Tables 228-0056 and 228-0057: Balance of payments basis, by sector, seasonally adjusted, Fisher formula, chained 2002 dollars, for all countries; monthly and quarterly.

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

These data are available in the Canadian international merchandise trade database.

The February 2011 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 65, no. 2 (65-001-X, free), is now available from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

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).

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for March will be released on May 11.

For further information regarding Canada's international merchandise trade data, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre.

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Mychèle Gagnon (613-951-0994), International Trade Division.