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Canadian international merchandise trade, January 2015

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Released: 2015-03-06

Canada's exports declined 2.8% in January while imports were largely unchanged from December. As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit widened from $1.2 billion in December to $2.5 billion in January, the largest since the record $2.9 billion deficit in July 2012.

Export prices declined 1.5% on lower prices for energy products, and volumes were down 1.3% on lower volumes of metal and non-metallic mineral products. Meanwhile, import prices edged up 0.1%, while volumes edged down 0.1%.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Exports and imports - Description and data table
Exports and imports

Chart 1: Exports and imports - Description and data table

Trade surplus with the United States narrows

Exports to the United States declined 3.1% to $31.8 billion in January. Exports to countries other than the United States were down 1.9% to $10.9 billion. This decrease was widespread across most principal trading partners, led by lower exports to the Netherlands (-$184 million) and Italy (-$172 million). Conversely, exports to the United Kingdom increased by $357 million.

Imports from the United States edged down 0.1% to $30.5 billion. Imports from countries other than the United States edged up 0.2% to $14.5 billion. Higher imports from China (+$250 million) were partially offset by lower imports from the United Kingdom (-$174 million) and Saudi Arabia (-$111 million).

Consequently, Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $2.2 billion in December to $1.2 billion in January, the lowest surplus since 1992. Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $3.4 billion in December to $3.7 billion in January.

Exports decline on lower crude oil prices

Exports declined 2.8% to $42.6 billion in January, as 4 of 11 sections decreased. Energy products, mainly crude oil and crude bitumen, were the main contributor to the decline. Excluding crude oil and crude bitumen, exports increased 0.2% in January. Year over year, total exports were up 3.4%.

Exports of energy products fell 14.7% to $7.0 billion in January, the eighth consecutive monthly decrease. Crude oil and crude bitumen exports declined 23.0% to $4.4 billion, as prices fell 23.2%.

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products were down 8.6% to $5.1 billion. Unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys (-13.5%) and unwrought, basic and semi-finished aluminum and aluminum-alloy products (-20.4%) were the main contributors to the decrease. Overall, volumes declined 8.0%.

Meanwhile, exports of motor vehicles and parts were up 3.1% to $6.9 billion in January. Exports of passenger cars and light trucks rose 8.6% to $4.8 billion. This increase was partially offset by lower exports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts, down 11.5% to $1.6 billion.

Imports largely unchanged

Imports for January were virtually unchanged at $45.1 billion, as advances in five sections were offset by declines in the six remaining sections. Imports were up 8.8% from January 2014.

Imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts rose 9.3% to $5.3 billion in January, as volumes were up 7.4% and prices 1.8%. The increase for this section was almost entirely the result of higher imports of communications and audio and video equipment, up 29.8% to $2.0 billion.

Industrial machinery, equipment and parts increased 8.2% to $4.7 billion. Widespread increases in imports for this section were led by other industry-specific machinery (+32.6%) and other general-purpose machinery and equipment (+5.9%), both reaching record highs. Overall, volumes rose 5.0% and prices 3.0%.

Partially offsetting these gains, imports of energy products fell 19.2% to $2.7 billion. Crude oil and crude bitumen declined 27.6% to $1.3 billion, as prices fell 26.9% and volumes 0.9%. Imports of refined petroleum energy products (-12.8%) were also down in January.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Trade balance - Description and data table
Trade balance

Chart 2: Trade balance - Description and data table

  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 trade data by commodity are available on both a BOP and a customs basis. International trade data by country are available on a customs basis for all countries, and on a BOP basis for Canada's 27 principal trading partners (PTPs). The list of PTPs is based on their annual share of total merchandise trade—imports and exports—with Canada in 2012. 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.

For a BOP versus customs-based data conceptual analysis, see "Balance of Payments trade in goods at Statistics Canada: Expanding geographic detail to 27 principal trading partners."

Data in this release are on a BOP basis, seasonally adjusted and in current dollars. Constant dollars are calculated using the Laspeyres volume formula (2007=100).

For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonally adjusted data – Frequently asked questions.


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, March and April reference months. To remain consistent with the Canadian System of macroeconomic accounts, revisions to BOP based data for previous years are released annually in December with the October 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 section with actual figures, changes in classification of merchandise based on more current information, and changes to seasonal adjustment factors.

For more information on revisions for crude oil and natural gas, see "Revisions to trade data for crude oil and natural gas."

Revised data are available in the appropriate CANSIM tables.

Customs based data are now available in the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database (Catalogue number65F0013X). From the Browse by key resource module of our website, choose Publications.

The January 2015 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 69, no. 1 (Catalogue number65-001-X), is also available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for February will be released on April 2.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Nita Boushey (613-404-4965), International Accounts and Trade Division.

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