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Canadian international merchandise trade, March 2019

Released: 2019-05-09

Canada's exports rose 3.2% in March, led in part by higher exports of energy products. Imports increased 2.5%, mainly on higher imports of consumer goods. As a result, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world narrowed from $3.4 billion in February to $3.2 billion in March.

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

Higher exports of energy products

Total exports rose 3.2% to $49.0 billion in March, with increases in 9 of 11 product sections. Export volumes increased 2.6%, while prices were up 0.6%. The increase in nominal exports was led by energy products and motor vehicles and parts. After declining 4.2% in February, exports excluding energy products rose 2.1% in March.

Exports of energy products rose 7.7% to $9.6 billion in March. Widespread growth in this product section was led by higher exports of crude oil (+5.0%), mainly due to increased volumes. Following a decline of 10.9% from November to February, which coincided with lower production in Alberta, crude oil export volumes rose 3.1% in March. Exports of coal (+29.5%), natural gas (+9.9%) and refined petroleum products (+13.6%) also contributed to this month's increase.

Following declines in three of the past four months, exports of motor vehicles and parts were up 5.6% in March, mostly on higher exports of passenger cars and light trucks (+8.4%). This follows a 3.4% decrease for these exports in February, which coincided with a decline in production at certain Canadian plants. Like exports of passenger cars and light trucks, imports of motor vehicle engines and motor vehicle parts (+4.6%) also rose in March after falling in February.

Imports of consumer goods increase

Total imports rose 2.5% in March to $52.3 billion. Imports were up in 8 of 11 sections, with consumer goods posting the largest increase. Import volumes rose 1.3%, while prices were up 1.2%.

Imports of consumer goods increased 6.7% in March to a record $10.9 billion. Imports of clothing, footwear and accessories (+22.9%) led the widespread increase, mainly on higher imports of clothing from Bangladesh and Cambodia. Despite the monthly gain, imports of clothing, footwear and accessories edged down 0.4% in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the last quarter of 2018.

Imports of motor vehicles and parts rose 4.9% to $9.9 billion in March, largely due to higher imports of commercial trucks.

Partially offsetting the overall gain in March, imports of aircraft fell 50.7% due to a slowdown in deliveries of airliners from the United States. This follows two consecutive strong monthly increases for aircraft imports.

Trade with countries other than the United States rebounds

After decreasing 13.9% in February, exports to countries other than the United States rose 8.8% in March to $12.7 billion. Higher exports to the United Kingdom (gold), the Netherlands (aluminium and crude oil), Germany (aircraft and crude oil) and Saudi Arabia (other transportation equipment) were partially offset by lower exports to Hong Kong (gold).

After declining 6.7% in February, imports from countries other than the United States rose 8.0% in March to $19.5 billion. The increase was led by higher imports from China (computers and peripherals) and Mexico (cars and trucks).

As a result, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $6.4 billion in February to a record $6.8 billion in March.

Exports to the United States were up 1.3% to $36.4 billion in March, mainly on higher exports of motor vehicles and crude oil. Imports from the United States edged down 0.4%, primarily on lower imports of aircraft. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States widened from $3.0 billion in February to $3.6 billion in March. Comparing the average exchange rates of February and March, the Canadian dollar lost 0.9 US cents relative to the American dollar.

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

Imports up in the first quarter

Imports in the first quarter of 2019 rose 2.2% to $155.1 billion, driven by higher imports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts (+35.0%) and motor vehicles and parts (+4.9%).

Exports were up 0.5% to $144.7 billion, due to a 9.9% increase in exports of energy products. However, exports excluding energy products were down 1.4% in the first quarter.

Canada's trade deficit with the world widened from $7.8 billion in the last quarter of 2018 to $10.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019, the largest deficit since the second quarter of 2016.

In real (or volume) terms, exports decreased 2.4% in the first quarter, primarily on lower export volumes of energy products (-5.5%). Real imports rose 2.4% in the first quarter, due to higher imports of motor vehicles and parts (+6.7%) and of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts (+31.9%).

Revisions to February exports and imports

Revisions reflect initial estimates being updated with or replaced by administrative and survey data as they become available, as well as amendments made for late documentation of high-value transactions. Exports in February, originally reported as $48.0 billion in the last release, were revised to $47.5 billion, mainly on revised exports of crude oil. February imports, originally reported as $50.9 billion in the last release, were revised to $51.0 billion in the current month's release.

  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 the 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 (2012=100). Volumes, or constant dollars, are calculated using the Laspeyres formula (2012=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 12-10-0120-01 will be updated on May 21.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for April will be released on June 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, Japan, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and many others.

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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