Canadian international merchandise trade

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May 2011 (Previous release)

Canada's merchandise exports increased 1.2% in May while imports rose 1.1%. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with the world narrowed from $857 million in April to $814 million in May.

Exports and imports

Description: Exports and imports

Exports increased to $36.9 billion as volumes rose 1.5% while prices decreased by 0.3%. The higher volumes were mainly led by the machinery and equipment as well as the automotive products sectors. The energy products sector was the main contributor to the decline in prices.

Imports increased to $37.8 billion, as all sectors except energy products recorded gains. Prices rose 2.1%, with the increase led by energy products and industrial goods and materials. Volumes decreased by 1.0%.

Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $4.0 billion in April to $3.7 billion in May. Exports to the United States edged up 0.1% to $27.1 billion. Imports increased 1.1% to $23.4 billion in May, a third straight monthly increase.

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 (BOP) 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 BOP based data. The previous year's customs data are revised with the release of the January and February reference months as well as on a quarterly basis. The previous two years of customs based data are revised annually and are released in February with the December reference month. The previous year's BOP based data are revised with the release of the January, February and March reference months. Revisions to BOP based data for the previous three years are released annually in June with the April reference month.

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 rose 4.4% to $9.8 billion in May, on the strength of higher exports to the European Union. Imports increased 1.1% to $14.4 billion, as most of Canada's principal trading areas registered gains. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from $4.8 billion in April to $4.6 billion in May.

Trade balance

Description: Trade balance

Industrial goods and materials lead the increase in exports

Exports of industrial goods and materials rose 4.0% to $9.5 billion in May, on the strength of metals and alloys as well as chemicals, plastics and fertilizers. The main contributors to the gains in these respective sub-sectors were higher exports of gold to the United Kingdom, and potash to China.

Exports of machinery and equipment gained 4.8% to $6.3 billion, as volumes rose 5.3%. Exports of aircraft, engines and parts increased 34.7% to $1.0 billion. Exports of television, telecommunication and related equipment also contributed to the gain in the sector.

Exports of automotive products increased 3.9% to $4.9 billion in May. The majority of this increase was in exports of passenger autos and chassis. Gains in exports of motor vehicle parts also contributed to the increase in the sector.

Strong gains in most sectors were partially offset by a decrease in exports of energy products, which fell 3.6% to $9.1 billion. Crude petroleum made up the bulk of the decline, falling 5.8% to $5.2 billion.

Imports increase in most sectors

Imports of automotive products rose 3.6% to $5.8 billion in May. Imports of passenger autos and chassis increased 12.4%, following a 22.2% decline in April.

Imports of industrial goods and materials increased for the third consecutive month, rising 2.2% to a record high of $8.3 billion in May, as a result of higher prices. Imports of precious metals and alloys, mainly gold and silver, accounted for over half of this growth and reached a record high.

Imports of machinery and equipment edged up 0.7% to $10.3 billion in May, as gains were observed in aircraft and other transportation equipment, and industrial and agricultural machinery. Higher imports of aircraft, engines and parts led the increase. Imports of industrial and agricultural machinery posted a fourth straight monthly increase, mainly on the strength of imports of engines, turbines and motors.

Plant shutdowns due to maintenance were the main factor behind lower imports of energy products, which fell 5.2% to $4.3 billion. Imports of crude petroleum and other energy products decreased 7.2% and 2.8%, respectively.

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 May 2011 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 65, no. 5 (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 June will be released on August 11.

For further information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (613-951-8116; toll-free 1-800-263-1136; To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marc Nadeau (613-951-3692), International Trade Division.