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Canadian international merchandise trade, April 2017

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Released: 2017-06-02

Canada's merchandise trade balance with the world narrowed to a $370 million deficit in April, from a revised $936 million deficit in March. Exports rose 1.8% to $47.7 billion, led by higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks. Imports were up 0.6% to $48.1 billion, on the strength of import prices.

Canada's trade activity has been strong in recent months, with Canada's total merchandise trade (exports plus imports) reaching a record high $95.7 billion in April. Year over year, Canada's total trade rose 10.9%.

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

Record high exports led by passenger cars and light trucks

Following a 3.2% increase in March, total exports rose 1.8% to a record high $47.7 billion in April, with advances in 8 of 11 sections. Volumes were up 1.1% and prices increased 0.7%. Motor vehicles and parts, energy products, and forestry products and building packaging materials drove the gain in exports for the month. Exports excluding energy products rose 1.7%. Year over year, total exports increased 14.7%.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts were up 4.4% in April to $8.1 billion. Passenger cars and light trucks led the increase, up 5.4% to $5.6 billion. This growth coincided with a third consecutive monthly increase in imports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts and a larger ramp-up in US auto inventories in April. For the section as a whole, volumes rose 2.8% and prices increased 1.6%.

Also contributing to the overall increase were higher exports of energy products, up 2.5% in April to $8.8 billion. Exports of natural gas led the increase, rising 18.5% to $1.1 billion, mostly on higher prices. Other energy products (+13.9%) also increased, mainly on higher exports of coal to the Netherlands. Coal exports have been strong in recent months as Australia's coal industry continues to recover from Cyclone Debbie.

Exports of forestry products and building and packaging materials rose 4.7% in April to $3.7 billion. Following a 6.4% increase in March, lumber and other sawmill and millwork products rose 8.0% in April to $1.5 billion. Volumes for this group rose 4.3% and prices were up 3.6%. There were higher exports of softwood lumber to the United States in April. This increase preceded the decision by the US Department of Commerce to impose countervailing duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber into the US, effective April 28.

Record high imports on higher prices

Total imports rose 0.6% to a record high $48.1 billion in April, a fifth consecutive monthly increase, with gains in 7 of 11 sections. Prices increased 1.0%, while volumes were down 0.3%. Year over year, total imports were up 7.4%.

Higher imports of consumer goods, electronic and electrical equipment and parts, and basic and industrial chemical, plastic and rubber products were responsible for the increase in April.

Meanwhile, imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts were down 24.6% in April to $1.3 billion. Fewer imports of aircrafts from the United States and ships from the Netherlands and Poland led the decrease.

Imports of energy products (-14.0%) also decreased in April, to $2.3 billion, mainly on lower volumes. Crude oil and crude bitumen were responsible for the decline, down 22.9% to $1.3 billion, mainly on lower imports from Nigeria and Saudi Arabia.

Increased trade with the United States

Exports to the United States rose 5.4% to a record high $36.1 billion in April, mostly on passenger cars, natural gas and softwood lumber. Imports from the United States were up 1.1% to $31.1 billion.

As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States widened from $3.4 billion in March to $5.0 billion in April, the largest surplus since May 2014. The Canadian dollar fell 0.3 cents US relative to the American dollar in April.

Exports to countries other than the United States declined 7.8% in April to $11.6 billion, partially offsetting the gain in exports to the United States. Lower exports to the United Kingdom (unwrought nickel and gold), China (unwrought gold), Spain (crude oil and iron ores) and Switzerland (unwrought gold) contributed most to the decline.

Imports from countries other than the United States edged down 0.2%, as widespread declines were partially offset by higher imports from Norway (crude oil and energy transmission cables) and Turkey (crude oil).

As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $4.4 billion in March to $5.3 billion in April.

Real trade surplus widens in April

In real (or volume) terms, exports were up 1.1% and imports were down 0.3% in April. Consequently, Canada's trade surplus in real terms widened from $239 million in March to $843 million in April.

Revisions to March imports and exports

Revisions reflected initial estimates being updated with or replaced by administrative and survey data as they became available, as well as amendments made for late documentation of high-value transactions. Exports in March, originally reported as $47.0 billion in last month's release, were revised to $46.8 billion in the April release. Imports, originally reported as $47.1 billion in last month's release, were revised to $47.8 billion in the April release.

Telling Canada's story in numbers; #ByTheNumbers

In celebration of the country's 150th birthday, Statistics Canada is presenting snapshots from our rich statistical history.

Alberta and Saskatchewan join Confederation in 1905

From 1905 to 1920, Canada's exports of agricultural products rose by $335 million. Exports of wheat grew from $13 million in 1905 to $185 million in 1920, accounting for over 50% of agricultural product exports. In comparison, wheat exports accounted for 23.7% of exports of farm and fishing products in 2016.

Formerly belonging to the Territories, Alberta and Saskatchewan joined Confederation in 1905, at which time their combined exports were valued at $753,905. Marquis wheat, which had shorter maturity periods and larger yields than other varieties, was introduced in 1903 and by 1915 resulted in a bumper crop. By 1920, Saskatchewan's wheat exports reached $31 million while exports from Alberta reached $2.2 million.

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 then 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.

Real-time CANSIM tables

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

New CANSIM table

Starting on June 19, 2017, Statistics Canada will be releasing a new CANSIM table featuring Canada's international merchandise imports and exports with the United States. CANSIM table 228-0080 will include monthly merchandise trade values by U.S. state and Canadian province at the Harmonized System section level dating back to January 1990.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for May will be released on July 6.


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

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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