High imports helped push Canada’s trade deficit to a record for March. Canada’s trade surplus with the United States narrowed for the fifth consecutive month to $1.7 billion in March compared with $2.3 billion in February.
Canada’s imports rose 6% to a record $51.7 billion in March. Exports increased 3.7% to $47.6 billion. As a result, Canada’s merchandise trade deficit with the world widened from $2.9 billion in February to a record $4.1 billion in March.
In real (or in volume) terms, imports rose 5.3% and exports were up 3.0%.
Imports reach record high
Imports rose 6.0% to a record high $51.7 billion in March, with increases in 9 of 11 sections. Motor vehicles and parts and also consumer goods were largely responsible for the increase. Year over year, imports were up 9.2%.
Imports of motor vehicles and parts rose 8.3% to $10.3 billion, the strongest increase since 2011. Passenger cars and light trucks contributed the most to the March increase, rising 13.0%. Higher than usual import levels for March were observed for light trucks. For the section as a whole, volumes rose 10.0%, while prices fell 1.5%.
Imports of consumer goods also contributed to the overall increase, up 7.7% to a record $11.0 billion. Higher imports of clothing, footwear and accessories (+20.8%) drove the widespread gain in the section, posting an atypical increase in March. Pharmaceutical and medicinal products (+13.2%) also contributed to the increase, mainly on higher imports from the United States and Belgium. For the section as a whole, volumes were up 6.0% and prices rose 1.6%.
Widespread increase in exports
Exports rose 3.7% in March to $47.6 billion. Aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts; farm, fishing and intermediate food products; and energy products contributed the most to the widespread increase. Exports excluding energy products rose 3.6%. Year over year, total exports were up 1.9%.
For a second consecutive month, exports of aircraft and other transportation equipment and parts rose sharply, up 24.3% in March to $2.3 billion. Exports of boats and other personal transportation equipment almost tripled, mainly due to higher exports of other transportation equipment to Saudi Arabia. Aircraft engines and aircraft parts (+15.2%) also contributed to the increase in March, primarily on higher shipments to the United States.
Exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products also increased, up 14.7% to $2.8 billion. Following a sharp decline in February, which coincided with rail transportation disruptions in Western Canada, wheat exports (+51.9%) rebounded in March.
Increase in trade with countries other than the United States
In March, Canada’s total trade with countries other than the United States reached a record $31.2 billion, with imports increasing 11.5% and exports up 11.4%. Imports from China (+26.6%) led the increase, mainly on higher imports of computers and computer peripheral equipment and of communications and audio and video equipment. Other notable increases were in imports from the Netherlands (motor gasoline) and Germany (passenger cars and light trucks).
Higher exports to countries other than the United States were mostly attributable to the United Kingdom (unwrought gold), Saudi Arabia (other transportation equipment), South Korea (aircraft) and Japan (copper and coal).
Consequently, Canada’s trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened from $5.2 billion in February to $5.8 billion in March.
After rising 3.8% in February, imports from the United States increased 3.1% in March, mainly due to higher imports of passenger cars and light trucks. Exports to the United States rose 1.2%, led primarily by higher exports of crude oil. Comparing the average exchange rates of March and February, the Canadian dollar lost 2.1 US cents relative to the American dollar.
As a result, Canada’s trade surplus with the United States narrowed for the fifth consecutive month, moving from $2.3 billion in February to $1.7 billion in March.
Imports and exports rise in the first quarter
Imports rose 2.1% to $148.3 billion in the first quarter of 2018, mainly on higher imports of motor vehicles and parts. Exports were up 1.0% to $139.2 billion on increased exports of energy products. As a result, Canada’s trade deficit widened from $7.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $9.1 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
In real (or volume) terms, imports rose 1.5% in the first quarter, while exports edged up 0.3%.
Revisions to February 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 February, originally reported as $45.9 billion in last month’s release, were essentially unchanged in the current month’s release. February imports, originally reported as $48.6 billion in last month’s release, were revised to $48.8 billion.