Canadian international merchandise trade, March 2012

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Canada's merchandise exports edged down 0.4% and imports decreased 0.6%. As a result, Canada's trade surplus increased from $273 million in February to $351 million in March.

Chart 1 
Exports and imports
Chart 1: Exports and imports

Chart description: Exports and imports

CSV version of the chart

Exports decreased for a third consecutive month to $39.5 billion, as prices fell 1.3%. Exports of energy products led the overall decline, partially offset by increases of industrial goods and materials as well as machinery and equipment.

Imports declined to $39.1 billion, as prices decreased 2.3%. The overall decline was a result of lower imports of energy products and industrial goods and materials. All remaining sectors registered increases.

Exports to the United States fell 2.1% to $28.7 billion, the third consecutive monthly decrease. Imports also declined, down 1.4% to $24.1 billion in March. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus with the United States decreased from $4.9 billion in February to $4.6 billion in March.

Exports to countries other than the United States rose 4.5% to $10.8 billion and imports increased 0.8% to $15.1 billion. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from $4.6 billion in February to $4.3 billion in March.

Lower prices of energy products contribute to the overall decline in exports

Exports of energy products fell 8.9% to $9.9 billion in March, primarily the result of lower prices, down 8.0%. Exports of crude petroleum were solely responsible for the overall decrease, down 15.7% as a result of a decrease in prices and volumes. Higher exports of petroleum and coal products, mainly diesel fuel, partially offset the decline in the sector.

Exports of industrial goods and materials increased 6.2% to $9.9 billion as a result of higher volumes and prices. Exports of precious metals and alloys, organic chemicals as well as copper ores, concentrates and scrap led the sector's gain, on the strength of volumes.

Exports of machinery and equipment grew 3.4% to $6.9 billion in March as volumes rose 3.0%. The main contributor to the increase was higher exports of other end products, primarily gold coins.

Exports of other consumer goods, mainly medicinal and pharmaceutical products, increased 11.6% to $1.4 billion, the result of higher volumes, up 11.2%.

Energy products leads the decline in imports

Imports of energy products fell 14.9% to $4.3 billion in March, as volumes fell 13.9%. The decline was mostly the result of lower imports of petroleum and coal products, down 32.1%, after reaching a record high in February.

Imports of industrial goods and materials declined 4.0% to $8.1 billion, as prices fell 5.4%. Precious metals and alloys led the decrease, falling 15.9% as prices declined. Imports of metals in ores, concentrates and scrap also contributed to the sector's decline, a result of lower volumes.

Imports of automotive products rose 4.7% to $6.5 billion as volumes and prices increased. Trucks and other motor vehicles, up 7.0%, reached a record high of $1.8 billion. Passenger autos and chassis and motor vehicle parts also recorded gains, up 4.5% and 3.3%, respectively.

Imports of machinery and equipment increased 2.3% to $10.8 billion, as volumes increased 2.8%. The increase was led by higher imports of other machinery and equipment, primarily laboratory equipment, as well as industrial and agricultural machinery.

Chart 2 
Trade balance
Chart 2: Trade balance

Chart description: Trade balance

CSV version of the chart

Note to readers

Merchandise trade is one component of Canada's international balance of payments (BOP), 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 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. BOP data are derived from customs data by making adjustments for factors 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 BOP basis, seasonally adjusted and 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 will be revised with the release of the January, February, March and April 2012 reference months.

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, free of charge.

Available without charge in CANSIM: tables CANSIM table228-0001 to 228-0003, CANSIM table228-0033, CANSIM table228-0034, CANSIM table228-0041 to 228-0043 and CANSIM table228-0047 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 subsector, 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 subsector, 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 survey number2201, survey number2202 and survey number2203.

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

The March 2012 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 66, no. 3 (Catalogue number65-001-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 (Catalogue number67-001-X, free).

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for April will be released on June 8.

For more information, contact Statistics Canada's National Contact Centre (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 613-951-8116;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Marc Nadeau (613-951-3692), International Trade Division.