The Daily
 In the news  Indicators  Releases by subject
 Special interest  Release schedule  Information

Canadian international merchandise trade, February 2018

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Released: 2018-04-05

Canada's merchandise trade deficit totalled $2.7 billion in February, widening from a $1.9 billion deficit in January. Imports rose 1.9%, mainly due to higher imports of energy products. Exports increased 0.4%, primarily on higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks.

In real (or in volume) terms, imports rose 1.9% and exports were up 0.6%.

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

Energy products lead the increase in imports

Following a 4.3% decline in January, total imports were up 1.9% in February to $48.6 billion, with increases in 8 of 11 sections. Higher imports of energy products and of motor vehicles and parts were partially offset by lower imports of gold. Year over year, total imports increased 3.5%.

Imports of energy products rose 15.4% to $3.4 billion in February, the highest level since November 2014. Imports of crude oil and crude bitumen were also up 15.4%, with a larger share coming from the United States. Imports of refined petroleum energy products (+24.1%) also increased, in part due to higher imports of motor gasoline entering British Columbia. For the section as a whole, volumes rose 14.5%, and prices were up 0.8%.

Following atypical plant shutdowns in January, imports of motor vehicles and parts partially rebounded in February, up 1.7% to $9.4 billion, on higher imports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts.

Partially offsetting the overall increase were lower imports of gold, which contributed to decreases in the metal ores and non-metallic minerals (-11.9%) and in the metal and non-metallic mineral products (-3.0%) sections. Disruptions in gold mining activity, particularly in Argentina and the Dominican Republic, led to lower imports of both gold bullion and unwrought gold in February.

Strong offsetting movements in exports

Total exports edged up 0.4% to $45.9 billion in February, with increases in exports of motor vehicles and parts, and aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts. These were largely offset by lower exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, and of metal and non-metallic mineral products. Year over year, total exports were up 1.5%. Exports excluding energy products were up 0.7%.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts, up 5.0% to $7.5 billion, led the increase in February, mostly on higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks (+6.7%). This marks a partial recovery after atypical plant closures in the automotive industry in January.

Exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts also contributed to the overall increase, up 19.6% to $1.7 billion, rebounding from a decline of 21.9% in January. Exports of aircraft to Latvia and Hong Kong primarily accounted for the increase in February.

Partially offsetting the overall increase were lower exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, down 17.2% to $2.4 billion, the largest decline on record. Exports of wheat (-41.6%) and canola (-40.1%) were responsible for the drop in the section. These decreases coincided with rail transportation issues in Western Canada in February.

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products also fell sharply in February, down 7.2% to $5.2 billion. Following a 27.4% increase in December and January combined, exports of unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys fell 34.3% in February, primarily on lower shipments of unwrought gold to the United Kingdom.

Increase in trade with the United States

Following two consecutive monthly decreases, trade with the United States rose in February. Imports from the United States were up 3.3% to $32.1 billion, mostly on higher imports of aircraft. Exports to the United States increased 1.9% to $34.6 billion, mainly on higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks.

As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed from $2.9 billion in January to $2.6 billion in February.

Exports to countries other than the United States fell 4.2% to $11.3 billion, mainly on lower exports to the United Kingdom (unwrought gold). Imports from countries other than the United States also declined, down 0.6% to $16.6 billion. Lower imports of gold from the Dominican Republic and Argentina were partially offset by higher imports of passenger cars and light trucks from India and Mexico.

As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $4.9 billion in January to $5.3 billion in February.

Revisions to January exports and imports

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 and imports, as originally reported in January, were essentially unchanged in the current month's release.

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 and seasonally adjusted. Unless otherwise stated, values are expressed in nominal terms, or current dollars. References to prices are based on aggregate Paasche (current-weighted) price indexes (2007=100). Volumes, or constant dollars, are calculated using the Laspeyres 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.

New CANSIM tables

Today, Statistics Canada is releasing a new CANSIM table comparing Canadian and US bilateral trade in goods data. CANSIM table 228-0091 includes Canadian and American quarterly imports, exports and trade balance, with adjustments for concepts that lead to differences between the statistics of the two countries. Data are available on a customs and on a BOP basis, and in Canadian and US dollars dating back to the first quarter of 2013.

Also today, Statistics Canada is releasing a new CANSIM table featuring Canada's international merchandise imports and exports by province and territory, classified by North American Product Classification System. CANSIM table 228-0092 includes monthly merchandise trade values on a customs basis by Canadian principal trading partners dating back to January 1997. This new table will eventually replace CANSIM table 228-0060.

The data in those two new tables will be used as inputs for new features that will be added to the Canada and the World Statistics Hub (Catalogue number13-609-X) in the near future.

Real-time CANSIM tables

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

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for March will be released on May 3.


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

The updated Canada and the World Statistics Hub – United States (Catalogue number13-609-X) is now available from the home page of our website. This product illustrates the nature and extent of Canada's economic and financial relationship with the United States using interactive graphs and tables. This product provides easy access to information on trade, investment, employment and travel, including merchandise trade by Canadian provinces and US states.

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.

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: