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Canadian international merchandise trade, March 2016

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Released: 2016-05-04

Canada's exports fell 4.8% to $41.0 billion in March. Export volumes were down 2.9% and prices fell 2.0%. Imports declined 2.4% to $44.4 billion, as prices were down 2.1% and volumes fell 0.3%. As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world widened from $2.5 billion in February to a record $3.4 billion in March.

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

Trade with the United States declines

Exports to the United States fell 6.3% to $30.4 billion in March and imports were down 4.8% to $28.9 billion. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $2.1 billion in February to $1.5 billion in March, the lowest surplus since December 1993.

Imports from countries other than the United States increased 2.2% to $15.5 billion. Higher imports from countries other than Canada's principal trading partners as well as from South Korea and Algeria were offset by lower imports from China. Exports to countries other than the United States edged down 0.2% to $10.6 billion. Lower exports to countries other than Canada's principal trading partners as well as to China were mostly offset by higher exports to the United Kingdom. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $4.6 billion in February to $4.9 billion in March.

Widespread declines in exports

In March, total exports fell 4.8% to $41.0 billion, the lowest value since January 2014. Exports decreased in 10 of 11 sections, led by motor vehicles and parts, consumer goods, and metal and non-metallic mineral products. Exports excluding energy products also declined 4.8%. Year over year, total exports were down 5.1%.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts decreased 6.0% to $8.1 billion, the second consecutive monthly decline. Passenger cars and light trucks fell 6.6% to $5.6 billion in March. Exports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts declined 4.8% to $1.9 billion. For the section as a whole, prices were down 3.3% and volumes fell 2.7%.

Exports of consumer goods decreased 4.6% to $5.9 billion in March. Volumes were down 2.4% and prices fell 2.2%. Widespread declines in exports for this section were led by pharmaceutical and medicinal products (-7.4%), miscellaneous goods and supplies (-9.5%), and other food products (-4.3%).

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products fell 5.4% to $4.6 billion. Exports of unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys declined 8.2% to $1.6 billion. Overall, volumes were down 5.6%, while prices were up 0.2%.

Total exports decreased 1.3% in the first quarter of 2016.

Consumer goods lead decrease in imports

Total imports decreased 2.4% to $44.4 billion in March, as 8 of 11 sections declined. Lower imports of consumer goods and aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts were partially offset by higher imports of energy products. Year over year, total imports decreased 4.0%.

Following the record high in February, imports of consumer goods fell 4.6% to $9.9 billion. Widespread decreases throughout the section were led by miscellaneous goods and supplies (-8.0%), furniture and fixtures (-14.2%), and clothing, footwear and accessories (-6.4%). Overall, volumes were down 2.5% and prices decreased 2.1%.

Imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts declined 20.4% to $1.4 billion. Following an increase of $230 million in February, imports of aircraft decreased $221 million to reach $284 million in March. Imports of aircraft engines and aircraft parts were down 14.5% to $740 million.

Partially offsetting these declines, imports of energy products increased 13.5% to $1.6 billion. After recording a 45.8% decrease in February, crude oil and crude bitumen rose 64.7% to $907 million in March. However, imports of refined petroleum energy products declined 17.4% to $443 million. For the section as a whole, prices rose 11.7% and volumes increased 1.6%. Year over year, prices were down 27.5% and volumes fell 14.9%.

Total imports edged down 0.1% in the first quarter of 2016.

Real trade declines in March while quarterly trade surplus widens

In real (or volume) terms, exports decreased 2.9% in March, led by metal ores and non-metallic minerals and metal and non-metal mineral products. At the same time, import volumes edged down 0.3%, as lower imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts were partially offset by higher imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus in real terms narrowed from $2.1 billion in February to $1.0 billion in March. Year over year, real exports rose 1.3% in March, while imports declined 3.6%.

Export volumes increased 2.4% in the first quarter, while imports were up 1.1%. As a result, Canada's quarterly trade surplus in real terms widened from $4.2 billion in the fourth quarter to $5.9 billion in the first quarter.

Revisions to February imports and exports

Revisions reflect initial estimates being updated or replaced with administrative and survey data as they became available, as well as amendments made for late documentation of high-value transactions. Imports in February, originally reported as $45.6 billion in last month's release, were revised to $45.5 billion with the current month release. Exports, originally reported as $43.7 billion in last month's release, were revised to $43.1 billion.

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, and 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 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 revisions 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 information on data 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.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM table 228-8059 will be updated on May 16. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for April will be released on June 3.


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 March 2016 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 70, no. 3 (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 Benoît Carrière (613-415-5305;, International Accounts and Trade Division.

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