Logo StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better CanadaTrade in medical and protective goods

Statistics Canada is monitoring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s international merchandise trade statistics. There is particular interest in trade in products required for the prevention, testing and treatment of the illness, such as disinfectants and sterilization products, personal protective equipment, medical equipment and products, and diagnostic products.

A review of recent trends in exports and imports of these goods provides a basis for understanding the potential impact of the pandemic on Canada’s international merchandise trade. To this end, Statistics Canada has produced a special data compilation to examine trade in specific categories of relevant products.

The period of review for this analysis is January 2017 to March 2020; the data are on a customs basis and are not seasonally adjusted. Monthly movements in trade can result from seasonal factors, therefore the focus in the current analysis is on year-to-date data (in this case, comparing January to March aggregate values from this year to previous years). Monthly trade values are included where relevant.

Exports of medical and protective goods rise in 2020

Year-to-date exports of medical equipment and products, diagnostic products, and disinfectants and sterilization products rose notably in 2020, while personal protective equipment exports were down in comparison to the first quarter of 2019.


Table 1
January to March monthly and aggregate export values and period-to-period percent change of disinfectants and sterilization products, personal protective equipment, medical equipment and products, and diagnostic products, and their subgroups
Table summary
This table displays the results of January to March monthly and aggregate export values and period-to-period percent change of disinfectants and sterilization products January 2020, February 2020, March 2020, January to February, February to March, 2019, 2020 and 2019 to 2020, calculated using Monthly value (millions of dollars), % change and Year-to-date value (millions of dollars) units of measure (appearing as column headers).
January 2020 February 2020 March 2020 January to February February to March 2019 2020 2019 to 2020
monthly value (millions of dollars) % change year-to-date value (millions of dollars) % change
Total of all products 1,169.9 1,407.3 1,724.7 20.3 22.5 3,827.7 4,301.9 12.4
Disinfectants and sterilization products 88.9 91.9 109.7 3.3 19.4 253.9 290.5 14.4
Disinfectants and sterilizers 72.2 74.8 89.0 3.6 18.9 205.8 235.9 14.6
Wipes 16.7 17.1 20.7 2.0 21.4 48.1 54.6 13.4
Personal protective equipment 155.1 182.8 197.5 17.9 8.0 563.2 535.4 -4.9
Face and eye protection 22.9 27.9 30.0 21.7 7.4 78.2 80.8 3.4
Gloves 3.0 6.1 5.1 104.8 -16.8 15.4 14.2 -8.0
Other protective equipment 129.2 148.8 162.4 15.2 9.1 469.6 440.4 -6.2
Medical equipment and products 829.9 1,033.2 1,283.5 24.5 24.2 2,724.4 3,146.6 15.5
Medical consumables 29.6 27.9 29.8 -5.8 6.8 210.8 87.3 -58.6
Medical devices 157.4 152.8 175.5 -2.9 14.9 345.4 485.7 40.6
Medicaments 629.8 840.2 1,064.7 33.4 26.7 2,131.1 2,534.7 18.9
Oxygen therapy 13.2 12.3 13.5 -6.8 9.5 37.1 39.0 5.0
Diagnostic products 96.0 99.5 134.0 3.6 34.8 286.2 329.4 15.1
Test kits and diagnostic instruments 90.5 93.5 127.8 3.4 36.6 268.0 311.8 16.4
Thermometers 5.5 5.9 6.2 7.6 5.0 18.2 17.6 -3.2

In 2020, year-to-date exports of medical equipment and products rose 15.5% to $3.1 billion, the highest quarterly value since the third quarter of 2019. Exports were mainly destined for the United States and Italy. Exports rose 24.2% to $1.3 billion in March. In the first quarter of 2020, there were higher exports of medicaments, medical devices, and oxygen therapy, which were partially offset by lower exports of medical consumables. Exports of medicaments rose on increases in medicaments containing antibiotics to the United States as well as other unclassified medicaments to Italy. For medical devices, there were higher exports of instruments and appliances used in medical or veterinary sciences to the United States and the Netherlands. The decline in medical consumables was mainly the result of lower exports of needles, catheters, cannulae and the like to the United States and the Netherlands.

Year-to-date exports of diagnostic products were up 15.1% to $329 million in 2020. In March, exports were up 34.8% to reach $134 million. Year-to-date exports of test kits and diagnostic instruments increased 16.4% in 2020.

Exports of disinfectants and sterilization products increased 14.4% to $291 million in the first quarter of 2020 in comparison with the same period in 2019. In 2020, exports rose each month of the first quarter, most notably in March, up 19.4% to $110 million. During this period, there were higher exports of disinfectants and sterilizers to the United States and China, and wipes to the United States.

In contrast, personal protective equipment exports declined 4.9% to $535 million year-to-date in 2020. Lower exports to the United States (-$25.1 million) were moderated by an increase in exports to China (+$7.7 million). While exports increased each month during the quarter, monthly values were lower than those in early 2019. Exports of other protective equipment (-6.2%) and gloves (-8.0%) decreased, while face and eye protection (+3.4%) increased.

Chart 1 Monthly exports of disinfectants and sterilization products, personal protective equipment, medical equipment and products, and diagnostic products, January 2017 to March 2020

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Month (appearing as row headers), Disinfectant and sterilization products, Personal protective equipment, Medical equipment and products and Diagnostic products, calculated using millions of dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Month Disinfectant and sterilization products Personal protective equipment Medical equipment and products Diagnostic products
dollars
201701 74,261,301 157,994,161 823,774,865 70,469,293
201702 76,842,623 153,338,185 607,468,261 67,314,751
201703 103,590,053 180,436,883 797,767,986 86,505,814
201704 79,409,633 174,374,453 615,977,194 78,412,245
201705 80,693,544 184,379,497 697,202,278 98,174,327
201706 81,681,120 195,822,688 730,451,443 88,100,906
201707 90,917,317 166,594,074 633,411,573 78,337,607
201708 77,308,397 169,112,813 611,623,801 72,735,918
201709 82,541,223 181,318,087 773,857,713 83,838,690
201710 78,970,765 186,666,900 769,062,026 80,273,312
201711 85,543,175 187,707,882 869,320,559 81,207,575
201712 74,485,360 155,125,321 713,503,169 82,886,502
201801 74,426,829 168,506,271 745,033,960 76,770,360
201802 74,178,524 167,554,667 786,519,721 71,212,197
201803 91,096,823 189,694,922 843,765,401 92,389,634
201804 87,057,243 184,221,160 923,039,886 81,096,710
201805 85,042,562 195,542,944 880,791,443 83,648,003
201806 87,338,989 186,604,898 993,381,155 102,646,576
201807 83,958,073 181,364,246 897,133,147 92,852,688
201808 98,685,960 186,055,793 922,430,156 76,216,301
201809 77,910,234 195,034,868 896,002,773 92,214,779
201810 88,046,409 203,187,804 1,045,665,369 90,376,799
201811 87,390,492 189,029,739 1,001,716,305 92,962,035
201812 94,500,285 164,950,901 873,717,999 92,908,414
201901 87,056,719 184,098,766 952,818,584 93,572,784
201902 77,662,326 174,182,638 799,660,117 90,366,868
201903 89,204,397 204,883,380 971,936,470 102,225,702
201904 84,437,642 180,927,813 1,185,563,620 96,537,117
201905 79,875,795 192,232,917 1,069,180,222 94,280,078
201906 85,015,888 172,452,238 1,118,547,336 106,923,031
201907 85,014,754 171,920,529 1,025,756,864 87,891,650
201908 85,141,597 172,577,722 1,057,711,788 96,355,960
201909 90,938,075 193,546,696 1,117,435,357 101,931,902
201910 83,593,203 184,891,120 899,446,281 107,510,302
201911 90,410,004 183,149,220 1,014,535,215 107,852,112
201912 84,686,018 153,794,968 992,992,615 121,120,915
202001 88,922,796 155,096,865 829,935,702 95,957,631
202002 91,889,785 182,811,589 1,033,180,204 99,451,702
202003 109,690,037 197,476,555 1,283,500,099 134,018,615

Three of four medical and protective goods categories lower for imports in 2020

In 2020, year-to-date imports of medical equipment and products, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants and sterilization products were lower than in 2019. In contrast, imports of diagnostic products rose substantially in 2020.


Table 2
January to March monthly and aggregate import values and period-to-period percent change of disinfectants and sterilization products, personal protective equipment, medical equipment and products, and diagnostic products, and their subgroups
Table summary
This table displays the results of January to March monthly and aggregate import values and period-to-period percent change of disinfectants and sterilization products January 2020, February 2020, March 2020, January to February, February to March, 2019, 2020 and 2019 to 2020, calculated using Monthly value (millions of dollars), % change and Year-to-date value (millions of dollars) units of measure (appearing as column headers).
January 2020 February 2020 March 2020 January to February February to March 2019 2020 2019 to 2020
monthly value (millions of dollars) % change year-to-date value (millions of dollars) % change
Total of all products 2,103.0 2,146.9 2,497.7 2.1 16.3 6,447.9 6,747.6 4.6
Disinfectants and sterilization products 149.8 154.1 178.8 2.9 16.1 486.8 482.7 -0.8
Disinfectants and sterilizers 97.6 101.0 118.1 3.5 17.0 320.6 316.6 -1.2
Wipes 52.2 53.1 60.7 1.7 14.3 166.2 166.1 -0.1
Personal protective equipment 285.6 274.5 288.7 -3.9 5.2 865.3 848.8 -1.9
Face and eye protection 32.4 31.5 35.1 -2.7 11.5 84.9 99.0 16.5
Gloves 40.6 35.4 50.8 -12.8 43.7 116.3 126.8 9.0
Other protective equipment 212.6 207.6 202.8 -2.4 -2.3 664.1 623.0 -6.2
Medical equipment and products 1,187.4 1,240.9 1,497.2 4.5 20.7 4,063.4 3,925.4 -3.4
Medical consumables 148.6 140.4 155.4 -5.5 10.7 425.5 444.4 4.5
Medical devices 220.8 232.0 273.4 5.0 17.9 729.5 726.2 -0.5
Medicaments 791.1 846.0 1,033.6 6.9 22.2 2,829.4 2,670.6 -5.6
Oxygen therapy 26.9 22.6 34.8 -16.1 54.2 79.1 84.3 6.5
Diagnostic products 480.2 477.4 532.9 -0.6 11.6 1,032.3 1,490.6 44.4
Test kits and diagnostic instruments 469.4 465.9 520.2 -0.8 11.6 996.0 1,455.5 46.1
Thermometers 10.8 11.6 12.8 6.9 10.7 36.3 35.2 -3.1

Year-to-date imports of medical equipment and products were down 3.4% to $3.9 billion. In 2020, imports of medicaments decreased 5.6%, as lower imports of medicaments primarily for the eyes, ears or respiratory system as well as other medicaments for human use were partially offset by higher imports of medicaments containing corticosteroid hormones. Moderating the decrease in medicaments, year-to-date imports of medical consumables (+4.5%) and oxygen therapy (+6.5%) increased, mainly in March.

Imports of personal protective equipment declined 1.9% to $849 million year-to-date compared with 2019. Lower imports of other protective equipment (-6.2%) were moderated by higher imports of face and eye protection (+16.5%) and gloves (+9.0%).

Imports of disinfectants and sterilization products were down 0.8% to $483 million in the first quarter of 2020 in comparison with the same period in 2019.

In contrast, imports of diagnostic products increased 44.4% to $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020 compared with 2019. Year-to-date imports in 2020 rose mainly on higher imports of test kits and diagnostic instruments from Switzerland and the United States. There were strong increases in this category of goods over the past two years.

Chart 2 Monthly imports of disinfectants and sterilization products, personal protective equipment, medical equipment and products, and diagnostic products, January 2017 to March 2020

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Month (appearing as row headers), Disinfectant and sterilization products, Personal protective equipment, Medical equipment and products and Diagnostic products, calculated using millions of dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Month Disinfectant and sterilization products Personal protective equipment Medical equipment and products Diagnostic products
dollars
201701 132,152,758 254,030,303 1,112,395,390 182,786,929
201702 124,191,540 238,714,045 1,097,845,120 234,880,964
201703 165,222,092 265,256,305 1,328,011,989 261,678,938
201704 140,965,985 259,537,602 1,175,931,938 266,018,758
201705 150,337,904 289,797,100 1,149,854,262 254,166,953
201706 141,423,057 300,398,735 1,143,101,979 256,358,900
201707 139,222,029 297,067,370 1,069,069,711 228,515,839
201708 152,369,769 305,739,355 1,220,419,312 335,741,023
201709 140,243,927 271,641,190 1,050,845,640 258,437,384
201710 150,905,268 261,160,632 1,168,112,458 287,389,162
201711 139,290,470 259,208,062 1,202,773,131 244,169,185
201712 128,742,085 245,830,216 1,013,953,613 254,138,648
201801 143,833,343 259,256,490 1,257,069,175 286,307,681
201802 136,022,337 246,756,123 1,094,223,904 324,603,263
201803 157,158,683 285,641,417 1,272,600,642 396,215,873
201804 146,960,417 273,402,465 1,240,417,513 225,905,472
201805 170,938,042 302,760,674 1,211,402,703 336,635,585
201806 154,393,316 303,499,459 1,164,942,883 286,747,890
201807 154,119,511 341,318,858 1,265,578,445 312,044,395
201808 165,719,843 326,548,322 1,242,747,485 317,676,656
201809 166,134,370 300,125,097 1,057,020,313 380,404,416
201810 166,176,773 303,192,647 1,358,307,658 335,315,853
201811 164,241,754 278,475,134 1,160,423,889 281,567,412
201812 154,109,821 257,403,088 1,215,689,343 309,046,312
201901 162,829,515 306,194,568 1,253,320,912 332,390,874
201902 153,460,236 271,984,323 1,254,741,699 362,167,721
201903 170,522,251 287,153,497 1,555,372,800 337,761,777
201904 165,194,951 302,740,961 1,380,449,141 356,480,889
201905 166,227,322 320,108,908 1,404,675,384 370,031,785
201906 179,611,309 321,895,971 1,100,847,574 372,590,467
201907 162,836,747 371,057,536 1,467,803,012 461,242,273
201908 175,381,175 346,040,896 1,279,490,814 466,563,532
201909 155,245,435 313,593,046 1,273,721,479 378,517,808
201910 173,203,206 320,320,222 1,358,962,312 459,138,324
201911 151,253,252 261,391,636 1,323,499,008 477,806,852
201912 133,108,011 273,825,670 1,281,663,804 425,677,460
202001 149,797,176 285,586,954 1,187,362,236 480,249,098
202002 154,076,096 274,492,028 1,240,884,770 477,446,343
202003 178,820,168 288,717,075 1,497,190,425 532,948,265

Methodology

The categorization of goods used in this article was developed by Statistics Canada for the purpose of analysis. It was developed based on the Harmonized System (HS) classification guidelines produced by the World Customs Organization and the World Health Organization. The Canadian Border Services Agency’s Customs Notice 20-12, outlining applicable HS codes that can be used for the importation of such goods into Canada, was also considered in the development of these categories.

Note that many of the HS codes are broadly defined and therefore may include goods unrelated to the category into which they are placed. Additionally, data for trade under these categories may include goods that were not relevant to trade in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Notes

The source of these data is the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Program. Customs basis, not seasonally adjusted data by HS classification and country are available in the Canadian International Merchandise Trade database (table 65F0013X).

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