Canada’s Top 10 Exports

Canada's Top 10 Exports


Exports from Canada–the North American nation nicknamed the Great White North–amounted to US$420.6 billion in 2017 down by -7.9% since 2013 but up by 8.1% from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Canada’s exported goods plus services represent 31.4% of total Canadian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, 77.4% of Canadian exports (by value) were delivered to its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, United States and Mexico. Asian importers purchased 11.5% worth followed by buyers in Europe at 8.5%. Latin America (excluding Mexico) and the Caribbean consumed 1.3% of Canada’s total exports while just 0.7% of Canadian shipments were destined for Africa.

Given Canada’s population of 35.6 million people, its total $420.6 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $11,800 for every resident in that country.

Canada’s unemployment rate was 5.9% as of January 2018 down from 7.2% two years earlier during 2016, per Trading Economics.

Canada’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Canadian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Canada.

At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, Canada’s most valuable exports are crude oil followed by cars, gold, refined petroleum oils, automotive parts or accessories, petroleum gas, sawn or chipped wood then aluminum and turbojets.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$84.6 billion (20.1% of total exports)
  2. Vehicles: $62.3 billion (14.8%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $32.4 billion (7.7%)
  4. Gems, precious metals: $18.6 billion (4.4%)
  5. Wood: $14.1 billion (3.3%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $13 billion (3.1%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $12.6 billion (3%)
  8. Aluminum: $9.8 billion (2.3%)
  9. Aircraft, spacecraft: $9.7 billion (2.3%)
  10. Oil seeds: $7.9 billion (1.9%)

Canada’s top 10 exports accounted for nearly two-thirds (63%) of the overall value of Canadian global shipments.

Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest-grower among Canada’s top 10 export categories, up 35.8% from 2016 to 2017 propelled by improved sales of both crude and refined petroleum oils as well as petroleum gas.

In second place for improving export sales was aluminum which gained 21.4%.

The oil seeds category posted the third-fastest gain up 9.5% year over year.

Two top categories retreated, namely vehicles (down -3.1%) and aircraft or spacecraft (down -5.8%).


The following types of Canadian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: US$54.9 billion (Up by 48.5% since 2016)
  2. Wood: $11.1 billion (Up by 8.2%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $8.8 billion (Up by 24.1%)
  4. Oil seeds: $6.9 billion (Up by 9.5%)
  5. Woodpulp: $6 billion (Up by 10.5%)
  6. Aluminum: $5.9 billion (Up by 31.7%)
  7. Cereals: $5.6 billion (Up by 12.9%)
  8. Ores, slag, ash: $3.8 billion (Up by 10.3%)
  9. Fertilizers: $3.3 billion (Up by 5.3%)
  10. Meat: $3 billion (Up by 11.7%)

Canada has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases. The positive cashflows indicate Canada’s strong competitive advantages in raw resources segments of the energy market.


Overall, Canada incurred a -$11.8 billion trade deficit for 2017 down by -15.3% from the -$13.9 billion in red ink one year earlier.

Below are exports from Canada that are negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Canada’s goods trail Canadian importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$30.9 billion (Down by -2.9% since 2016)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$29.8 billion (Up by 10.4%)
  3. Vehicles: -$12 billion (Up by 273.9%)
  4. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.6 billion (Down by -2.5%)
  5. Pharmaceuticals: -$5.4 billion (Up by 79.3%)
  6. Articles of iron or steel: -$4.8 billion (Up by 20.0%)
  7. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$4.4 billion (Up by 7.5%)
  8. Fruits, nuts: -$4.1 billion (Up by 3.9%)
  9. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$4.0 billion (Up by 5.7%)
  10. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.6 billion (Up by 1.4%)

Canada has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for computer data processing machines spanning myriad types and sizes. The machinery including computer category also includes bulldozers and similar heavy construction equipment.

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Canada’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market including computer-related goods, but also represent key opportunities for Canada to improve its position in the global economy through targeted innovations.


Canadian Export Companies

Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Canada:

  • Barrick Gold (diversified metals, mining)
  • Bombardier Inc. (aerospace, transit vehicles)
  • Cameco (uranium)
  • Canadian Natural Resources (oil, gas)
  • Encana (oil, gas)
  • Magna International (automotive parts)
  • Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (specialized chemicals)
  • Saputo (dairy products)
  • Suncor Energy (oil, gas)

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Canadian exporters:

  • Interex Forest Products (wood, strand board)
  • West Fraser Mills (wood, chemical woodpulp)
  • Weyerhaeuser (wood, chemical woodpulp)

Canada’s capital city is Ottawa.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Canada’s Top 10 Major Export Companies, Canada’s Top Trading Partners, Canada’s Top 10 Imports, Highest Value Canadian Export Products and Top Canadian Trade Balances

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 12, 2018

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 12, 2018

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Accessed on February 12, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 12, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Canada. Accessed on February 12, 2018

Zepol’s company summary highlights by country. Accessed on October 21, 2015