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Canadian international merchandise trade, May 2015

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Released: 2015-07-07

Canada's exports declined 0.6% in May while imports edged up 0.2%. Export volumes decreased 2.5% and prices increased 1.9%. Meanwhile, import volumes were up 0.3% and prices edged down 0.1%.

As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world widened from $3.0 billion in April to $3.3 billion in May.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Merchandise exports and imports
Merchandise exports and imports

Exports to non-US countries decline

Exports to countries other than the United States fell 1.6% to $10.0 billion in May. Exports to the United Kingdom were down $345 million and exports to China decreased by $307 million. These declines were partially offset by a $302 million increase in exports to Switzerland. Exports to the United States declined 0.3% to $32.0 billion.

Imports from the United States increased 0.5% to $30.0 billion in May. Imports from countries other than the United States were down 0.2% to $15.5 billion, led by Japan (-$184 million) and Italy (-$160 million). Meanwhile, imports from the United Kingdom rose by $227 million and imports from Norway increased by $216 million.

Consequently, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $5.3 billion in April to $5.5 billion in May. Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $2.3 billion in April to $2.1 billion in May.

Exports down on lower volumes

Exports declined to $42.0 billion in May, the fifth consecutive monthly decrease. The declines in metal and non-metallic mineral products as well as metal ores and non-metallic minerals were largely offset by gains in aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts as well as motor vehicles and parts. Following two consecutive monthly increases, the volume of exports declined 2.5% in May.

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products were down 5.8% to $4.6 billion. Fabricated metal products decreased 19.7% to $370 million. Exports of unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys (-4.6%) and unwrought nickel and nickel alloys (-13.4%) also fell in May. Overall, volumes decreased 7.0% while prices were up 1.2%.

Metal ores and non-metallic minerals fell 9.2% to $1.4 billion. There were widespread declines throughout the section, with the largest occurring in other metal ores and concentrates (-41.3%), copper ores and concentrates (-12.2%) and potash (-7.9%). For the section, volumes were down 12.7% while prices increased 4.0%.

Partially offsetting these declines, exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts rose 10.3% to $2.1 billion in May. The main contributor was aircraft, which increased 30.7% to $1.0 billion.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts were up 2.7% to $6.9 billion, as volumes increased. There were higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks, which rose 3.8% to $4.6 billion.

Imports edge up

Imports edged up to $45.3 billion in May, as 7 of 11 sections increased.

Imports of consumer goods were up 2.3% to $9.7 billion, as volumes increased 2.8%. There were higher imports of miscellaneous goods and supplies (+9.1%) and pharmaceutical and medicinal products (+4.8%).

Imports of metal and non-metallic mineral products rose 5.0% to $3.8 billion. The main contributor was unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys, up 43.6% to $847 million. Overall, volumes increased 2.8% and prices 2.1%.

Basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products increased 5.1% to $3.7 billion. Volumes were up 10.6% while prices declined 5.0%. Imports of lubricants and other petroleum refinery products rose 20.6% to $565 million. Basic chemicals increased 12.3% to $875 million.

Meanwhile, imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts declined 12.4% to $1.6 billion. Imports of ships, locomotives, railway rolling stock, and rapid transit equipment fell $181 million to reach $119 million in May, following a $184 million increase in April.

Imports of industrial machinery, equipment and parts were down 5.0% to $4.3 billion, on a 5.1% decline in volumes. There were lower imports of other general-purpose machinery and equipment (-8.1%) and logging, mining and construction machinery and equipment (-13.3%).

Exports and imports of energy products increase

Exports of energy products increased 1.3% to $7.7 billion in May. Exports of refined petroleum energy products rose 7.4% to $895 million, but were partially offset by a decline in crude oil and crude bitumen, which fell 1.1% to $5.3 billion. Overall, prices rose 8.4% while volumes declined 6.5%.

Imports of energy products were up 2.9% to $3.0 billion, on higher prices. Widespread increases in imports in the section were led by crude oil and crude bitumen, up 5.7% to $1.7 billion.

Revisions to April imports and exports

April's imports, originally reported as $44.9 billion in last month's release, were revised to $45.2 billion. Exports, originally reported as $41.9 billion for April, were revised to $42.3 billion. Revisions reflect initial estimates being updated or replaced with administrative and survey data as they became available, as well as corrections made for late documentation of high-value transactions.

Chart 2  Chart 2: International merchandise trade balance
International merchandise trade balance

  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.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for June will be released on August 5.


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 May 2015 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 69, no. 5 (Catalogue number65-001-X), is also available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

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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