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Canadian international merchandise trade, April 2018

Released: 2018-06-06

Canada's exports rose 1.6% to a record $48.6 billion in April, while imports were down 2.5% to $50.5 billion. As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world narrowed from $3.9 billion in March to $1.9 billion in April.

In real (or volume) terms, exports rose 1.2% and imports fell 2.4%.

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

Exports reach record high

Exports increased 1.6% to a record $48.6 billion in April, the sixth increase over the past seven months. Higher exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products, consumer goods and energy products were partially offset by lower exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts. Year over year, total exports rose 3.1%.

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products increased 9.1% to $5.8 billion in April. Following two consecutive months of atypically low levels, exports of unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys led the increase for the section in April, up 25.3% to $1.6 billion. Contributing to the increase were higher sales of unwrought gold to Hong Kong, following its refining in Canada. For the section as a whole, volumes rose 5.8%, while prices were up 3.1%.

Exports of consumer goods, up 5.4% to $6.2 billion in April, also contributed to the overall increase. Exports of pharmaceutical and medicinal products rose 33.3%, mostly on higher shipments to the United States. Other food products (+8.3%) also posted a significant gain in April, mainly on higher exports of dried peas to Asia.

In April, exports of energy products increased 2.3%, the eighth monthly increase in nine months. Exports of crude oil and crude bitumen (+4.9%) were the largest contributor, principally on higher volumes. The April increase in real exports of crude oil was the fifth consecutive monthly gain. For the section as a whole, prices rose 2.1%, while volumes edged up 0.2%. Year over year, prices increased 10.2% for the section.

Motor vehicles and parts lead the decrease in imports

After reaching a record high in March, imports fell 2.5% in April to $50.5 billion, with declines in 8 of 11 sections. Lower imports of motor vehicles and parts and consumer goods were partially offset by higher imports of energy products. Year over year, total imports were up 4.7%.

Following two months of strong increases, imports of motor vehicles and parts decreased 5.8% to $9.7 billion in April. Passenger cars and light trucks were down 8.9%, returning to more typical levels following higher than usual import levels for light trucks in March. Motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts (-4.4%) also contributed to the decrease in April.

Imports of consumer goods also contributed to the overall decrease, down 4.9% to $10.5 billion in April. Following a $200 million increase in March, pharmaceutical and medicinal products drove the widespread decrease in the section in April, down $228 million, mostly on lower imports from Switzerland, Belgium and the United States.

These declines were partially offset by higher imports of energy products, up 8.5% to $3.4 billion. Imports of refined petroleum energy products were responsible for the gain, increasing 28.5% to a record $1.4 billion. Temporary shutdowns in Canadian refineries in April led to higher imports of motor gasoline and diesel fuel to meet domestic demand. For the section as a whole, volumes were up 8.1% and prices edged up 0.4%.

Trade surplus with the United States increases for the first time in six months

Exports to the United States were up 3.2% to $36.1 billion in April, notably on higher exports of crude oil and crude oil bitumen. Imports from the United States decreased 1.4% to $32.5 billion, mostly on lower imports of passenger cars and light trucks.

Consequently, after five monthly contractions, Canada's merchandise trade surplus with the United States widened to $3.6 billion in April from a $2.0 billion surplus in March. Comparing the average exchange rates of March and April, the Canadian dollar gained 1.2 US cents relative to the American dollar. This followed a decline of 2.1 US cents in March.

Exports to countries other than the United States decreased 3.0% to $12.5 billion in April, mainly on lower shipments to the United Kingdom (crude oil), Saudi Arabia (other transportation equipment), Japan (coal) and South Korea (aircraft and coal). These decreases were partially offset by higher exports to China (crude oil), Hong Kong (unwrought gold) and the Netherlands (coal and diesel fuel).

Imports from countries other than the United States fell 4.3% to $18.0 billion in April, mainly on lower imports from China (computers). This follows record imports from China in March.

As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from $6.0 billion in March to $5.5 billion in April.

Revisions to March 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 in March, originally reported as $47.6 billion in last month's release, were revised to $47.8 billion in the current month's release. March imports, originally reported as $51.7 billion in last month's release, were essentially unchanged in the current month's release.

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

Information related to recent US-Canada tariff changes

On June 1, the United States implemented additional tariffs on selected Canadian steel and aluminum products exported to the United States. The additional tariff rates are 25% and 10% respectively. According to Statistics Canada's international merchandise trade customs-based data, in 2017, the export value of aluminum products that are subject to the 10% rate was $9.2 billion; and the export value of steel products that are subject to the 25% rate was $7.2 billion.

At the same time, Canada has proposed additional tariffs on the imports of certain products from the United States. These tariff rates are also at the 25% and 10% levels. The tariffs cover a more diverse range of products and primarily fall under the categories of aluminum products; articles of iron and steel; machinery and electrical equipment; prepared foodstuffs; chemical products; paper products; and other miscellaneous manufactured items. In 2017, the import value of US goods that may be subject to the proposed tariffs was $19.4 billion.

In order to help Canadians understand the trade flows of these products, table 3 below provides the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Import and Export Statistics for the items subject to the tariffs.

The Aluminum and Steel dashboard is now available. This series of graphs and charts provide statistics on aluminum and steel production, exports and imports.

  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 are 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 tables.

Real-time data table

Real-time table 12-10-0089-01will be updated on June 18.

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).

The updated Canada and the World Statistics Hub (Catalogue number13-609-X) is available online. This product illustrates the nature and extent of Canada's economic and financial relationship with the world using interactive graphs and tables. This product provides easy access to information on trade, investment, employment and travel between Canada and a number of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and Japan. This month, the following countries were added to the Hub: Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

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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