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Canadian international merchandise trade, December 2015

Released: 2016-02-05

Canada's exports increased 3.9% in December and imports were up 1.6%. Export volumes increased 2.1% and prices 1.8%. For imports, volumes were up 1.5% and prices 0.1%. Consequently, Canada's merchandise trade deficit with the world narrowed from $1.6 billion in November to $585 million in December.

In 2015, annual imports increased 4.4% while exports decreased 0.9%. Consequently, Canada's annual merchandise trade balance with the world shifted from a surplus of $4.8 billion in 2014 to a deficit of $23.3 billion in 2015. However, in real (or volume) terms, exports surpassed imports. Real exports rose 4.0% and imports were up 1.1% in 2015. As a result, Canada's annual trade balance in real terms shifted from a deficit of $10.3 billion in 2014 to a surplus of $3.1 billion in 2015.

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

Higher exports to the United States and non-US countries

Exports to the United States increased 2.9% to $33.9 billion in December and imports were up 1.3% to $30.7 billion. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States widened from $2.6 billion in November to $3.2 billion in December.

Exports to countries other than the United States rose 7.0% to $11.4 billion. There were higher exports to Singapore and Hong Kong in December. Meanwhile, imports from countries other than the United States increased 2.1% to $15.2 billion, mainly from Germany. Consequently, Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed from $4.2 billion in November to $3.8 billion in December.

Widespread gains in exports

Total exports rose 3.9% to $45.4 billion in December. The gains were widespread as 10 of 11 sections increased, with metal ores and non-metallic minerals posting the lone decline. Exports excluding energy products were up 4.5% in the month. Year over year, total exports increased 3.4%.

Exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts rose 26.4% to $2.3 billion in December. Aircraft exports were up 64.4% to $1.0 billion. Exports in this commodity grouping tend to fluctuate from month to month.

Exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products increased 8.5% to $5.0 billion in December. The main contributor was unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys, which rose 32.7% to $1.7 billion on higher volumes.

In December, exports of consumer goods were up 6.4% to $6.4 billion on higher volumes. Widespread gains throughout the section were led by pharmaceutical and medicinal products, which rose 26.4% to $1.1 billion.

Exports of motor vehicles and parts increased 4.6% to $8.4 billion. Volumes increased 2.7% and prices 1.8%. In December, exports of passenger cars and light trucks rose 7.5% to $5.9 billion, the highest export value since January 2000.

Partially offsetting these gains, exports of metal ores and non-metallic minerals fell 20.1% to $1.5 billion. Exports of copper ores and concentrates declined $242 million to reach $278 million in December, following a $289 million increase in November. For the section as a whole, volumes fell 17.9% and prices were down 2.6%.

Imports rise on higher volumes

Total imports increased 1.6% to $45.9 billion in December, following three consecutive monthly decreases. Imports rose in 9 of 11 sections, with the largest gains in metal and non-metallic mineral products; consumer goods; energy products; and electronic and electrical equipment and parts. Year over year, total imports were up 2.5%.

Imports of metal and non-metallic mineral products rose 5.4% to $3.8 billion in December. The main contributor was unwrought precious metals and precious metal alloys, up 18.4% to $860 million. For the section as a whole, volumes were up 4.0% and prices 1.3%.

Imports of consumer goods increased 2.0% to $10.1 billion in December. Prices were up 2.6% while volumes declined 0.7%. There were higher imports of miscellaneous goods and supplies (+4.1%) and clothing, footwear and accessories (+3.3%).

In December, energy products imports rose 7.9% to $2.3 billion. Higher imports of crude oil and crude bitumen (+31.4%) were partially offset by lower imports of refined petroleum energy products (-21.2%). Overall, volumes rose 19.6% while prices declined 9.8%.

Imports of electronic and electrical equipment and parts were up 2.3% to $5.2 billion on higher prices. Imports of communications and audio and video equipment rose 5.7% to $1.7 billion in December.

Quarterly trade declines

Total exports fell 1.5% in the fourth quarter. Imports decreased 1.8%, the first quarterly decline since the fourth quarter of 2012.

In real (or volume) terms, exports edged down 0.1% from the third quarter. Lower real exports of energy products (-2.6%) and aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts (-10.2%) were partially offset by higher real exports of metal and non-metallic mineral products (+4.8%). Meanwhile, quarterly real imports were down 2.6%. The main contributors to the decline were electronic and electrical equipment and parts (-6.4%) and consumer goods (-3.1%).

Revisions to November imports and exports

Revisions reflect initial estimates being updated or replaced with administrative and survey data as they became available, as well as amendments made for late documentation of high-value transactions. Imports in November, originally reported as $45.2 billion in last month's release, were virtually unchanged with the current month release. Exports, originally reported as $43.3 billion in last month's release, were revised to $43.6 billion.

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 as well as 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 BOP versus customs-based data conceptual analysis, see "Balance of Payments trade in goods at Statistics Canada: Expanding geographic detail to 27 principal trading partners."

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.

Revisions

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 as well as on a quarterly basis. The previous two years of customs based data are revised annually and 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 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 February 16. For more information, consult the document Real-time CANSIM tables.

Next release

Data on Canadian international merchandise trade for January will be released on March 4.

Products

Customs based data are now available in the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database (Catalogue number65F0013X). From the Browse by key resource module of our website, choose Publications.

The December 2015 issue of Canadian International Merchandise Trade, Vol. 69, no. 12 (Catalogue number65-001-X), is also available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Contact information

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Nita Boushey (613-404-4965; nita.boushey@canada.ca), International Accounts and Trade Division.

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