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Canadian international merchandise trade, October 2016

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Released: 2016-12-06

Canada's imports fell 6.3% to $44.7 billion in October, following a record high in September related to an exceptionally large shipment destined for the Hebron offshore oil project. Import volumes decreased 6.2% and prices edged down 0.1%.

Exports increased 0.5% to $43.6 billion, as a 1.2% increase in prices was partially offset by a 0.7% decline in volumes. Consequently, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world narrowed from a record $4.4 billion in September to $1.1 billion in October, the smallest since January 2016.

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

Imports down following a record high in September

Following a record high in September, total imports were down 6.3% to $44.7 billion in October, the lowest level since February 2015. Overall, 7 of 11 sections were down. Year over year, total imports were down 1.3%.

The large decline in October was mostly attributable to lower imports of industrial machinery, equipment and parts, down 42.0% to $4.0 billion. This decrease followed a high-value shipment from South Korea destined for the Hebron offshore oil project, which was responsible for the large increase in September.

Excluding the $2.9 billion increase in imports of industrial machinery, equipment and parts in September, total imports would have decreased 0.3% in October, and the trade deficit would have narrowed from $1.5 billion in September to $1.1 billion in October.

Lower imports of energy products and metal ores and non-metallic minerals also contributed to the decline in October. Higher imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts partially offset the overall decrease.

Imports of energy products fell 11.6% to $2.0 billion in October, the third consecutive monthly decrease. Imports of crude oil and crude bitumen were responsible for the decrease, down 34.8% to $735 million—their lowest level since February 2016. The decrease in crude oil and crude bitumen imports coincided with scheduled maintenance at refineries in Eastern Canada in October. Overall, volumes were down 17.0% while prices increased 6.4%.

Higher imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts moderated the declines, up 1.6% to $5.3 billion in October. Imports of communications and audio and video equipment increased 5.6% to $1.8 billion on higher imports of cell phones from China and Vietnam. For the section as a whole, volumes were up 1.8% while prices edged down 0.2%.

Energy products lead increase in exports

Total exports rose 0.5% to $43.6 billion in October, despite declines in 7 of 11 sections. Higher exports of energy products and motor vehicles and parts were partially offset by lower exports of consumer goods and aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts. In October, exports excluding energy products were down 0.3%. Year over year, total exports increased 1.3%.

Exports of energy products increased 5.5% to $6.5 billion in October, the eighth consecutive monthly increase. Exports of crude oil and crude bitumen rose 5.5% to $4.3 billion on higher prices. Other energy products also contributed to the gain, up 50.7% to $412 million, mostly on higher exports of coal to India, Taiwan and the Netherlands. For the section as a whole, prices were up 5.6% while volumes edged down 0.1%.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts also contributed to the overall increase, rising 3.2% to $8.0 billion in October. Passenger cars and light trucks drove the gain, up 4.2% to $5.5 billion. Year over year, exports of passenger cars and light trucks were up 9.1%. For the section as a whole, volumes were up 2.3% and prices increased 0.9% in October.

Moderating these gains were lower exports of consumer goods, down 3.2% to $6.0 billion in October. Exports of pharmaceutical and medicinal products decreased 28.5% to $761 million, their lowest level since April 2015. This decline was mostly attributable to lower exports to the United States, Brazil and Japan. The decrease in pharmaceutical and medicinal products was partially offset by widespread increases throughout most of the consumer goods section. Overall, volumes were down 6.2% while prices increased 3.2%.

There were also lower exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts in October, down 4.5% to $1.9 billion. This followed an 11.8% increase in September. Exports of aircraft led the decline, down $208 million to $475 million, the lowest level since January 2016. This decrease was offset by higher exports of boats and other personal transportation equipment, up $170 million to a record $349 million, mostly on increased exports to Saudi Arabia.

Imports from South Korea down sharply following a high-value shipment in September

Imports from countries other than the United States fell 16.7% to $15.0 billion in October. Lower imports from South Korea (-$3.0 billion) were primarily responsible for the decrease, mainly reflecting the large shipment intended for the Hebron offshore oil project in September. There were also lower imports from Algeria and Saudi Arabia, while imports from China and Switzerland increased.

Exports to countries other than the United States decreased 2.7% to $10.8 billion. The United Kingdom was the main contributor to the decline in October, with exports down by $469 million on fewer exports of precious metals.

There were also lower exports to Brazil, while exports to Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands increased. As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from $6.8 billion in September to $4.1 billion in October.

Exports to the United States increased 1.6% to $32.8 billion in October, led by exports of crude oil and crude bitumen. Imports edged down 0.1% to $29.7 billion. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus with the United States widened from $2.5 billion in September to $3.0 billion in October.

Real trade balance in surplus in October

In real (or volume) terms, imports decreased 6.2% in October to their lowest level since March 2014. Lower import volumes of industrial machinery, equipment and parts, mainly due to the large shipment for the Hebron offshore oil project in September, and lower real imports of energy products contributed the most to the real decline in October.

Export volumes were down 0.7% on lower exports of consumer goods as well as basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products. Consequently, Canada's merchandise trade balance with the world in real terms went from a $1.1 billion deficit in September to a $1.2 billion surplus in October.

Revisions to September imports and exports

Revisions reflected initial estimates being updated with or replaced by administrative and survey data as they became available, and amendments made for late documentation of high-value transactions. Imports in September, originally reported as $47.6 billion in last month's release, were revised to $47.7 billion with the current month's release. Exports, originally reported as $43.5 billion in last month's release, were revised to $43.4 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 conceptual analysis of BOP versus customs based data, see "Balance of Payments trade in goods at Statistics Canada: Expanding geographic detail to 27 principal trading partners."

For more information on these and other macroeconomic concepts, see the Methodological Guide: Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (Catalogue number13-607-X) and User Guide: Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts (Catalogue number13-606-G).

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 and 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 the 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.

Notification of impending changes to the Harmonized Commodity and Coding System

Changes will be introduced to the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) starting with the January 2017 reference month.

The changes are due in part to World Customs Organization (WCO) updates to the six-digit HS codes, which are applied every five years to reflect changing international standards and trade patterns.

Additional changes will be applied at the HS ten-digit (import) and HS eight-digit (export) levels in order to improve the coding system. The changes are intended to address data gaps, eliminate seldom-used categories and reduce response burden for importers and exporters.

Real-time CANSIM tables

Real-time CANSIM table 228-8059 will be updated on December 19. For more information, consult the document, Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for November 2016 will be released on January 6, 2017.


Customs based data are now available in the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database (Catalogue number65F0013X).

The October 2016 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 70, no. 10 (Catalogue number65-001-X), is also available.

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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