Nicknamed the Great White North, Canada exported a total US$446.5 billion worth of products around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a 9.2% increase since 2015 but a -0.9% dip from 2018 to 2019.
Canada’s exported goods totaled $281.8 billion during the first 9 months of 2020. Assuming an annualized $375.8 billion in exports for all 2020, Canada is on track for an estimated -15.8% drop in value for its shipments from 2019 to 2020.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Canadian dollar has depreciated by -3.8% against the US dollar since 2015 and retreated by -2.4% from 2018 to 2019. Canada’s weaker local currency make Canadian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 91.6% of products exported from Canada were bought by importers in: United States (75.4% of the global total), China (3.9%), United Kingdom (3.3%), Japan (2.1%), Mexico (1.2%), Germany (1.1%), South Korea (0.9%), Netherlands (0.9%), India (0.8%), Hong Kong (0.7%), France (0.6%) and Italy (0.5%).
From a continental perspective, 76.7% of Canada exports by value were delivered to North American countries while 11.7% were sold to Asian importers. Canada shipped another 8.9% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.3%), Africa (0.9%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.5%).
Given Canada’s population of 37.5 million people, its total $446.5 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $11,900 for every resident.
Canada’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Canadian global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Canada.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$98.4 billion (22% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $61.4 billion (13.8%)
- Machinery including computers: $34.8 billion (7.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: $21.3 billion (4.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $13.5 billion (3%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $12.7 billion (2.8%)
- Wood: $11.7 billion (2.6%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $11.3 billion (2.5%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $8.9 billion (2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $8.4 billion (1.9%)
Canada’s top 10 exports approach two-thirds (63.2%) of the overall value of Canadian global shipments.
Led by gold the gems and precious metals category represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories thanks to its 16.2% increase since 2018. In second place for improving export sales was ores, slag and ash gained 12.7% led by iron ores and concentrates. Canada’s shipments of pharmaceuticals posted the third-fastest gain in value via its 7.4% improvement.
The leading decliner among Canada’s top 10 export categories was wood which fell -18.1% year over year.
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of Canada’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
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$65.2 billion (989.9% of total exports)
2. Gems, precious metals: $11 billion (166.4%)
3. Wood: $8.8 billion (133.2%)
4. Ores, slag, ash: $5.9 billion (89.2%)
5. Cereals: $5.7 billion (86.6%)
6. Woodpulp: $5.6 billion (85.2%)
7. Oil seeds: $4.6 billion (69.8%)
8. Aluminum: $4.3 billion (65.5%)
9. Fertilizers: $4 billion (61.1%)
10. Meat: $3.8 billion (57.4%)
Canada has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude oil, petroleum gas, coal and electricity. The positive cashflows indicate Canada’s strong competitive advantages under the mineral fuels-related category.
Overall Canada incurred a -$6.6 billion trade deficit for 2019, down by -27.8% from the -$9.1 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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$34.4 billion (Down by -0.001% since 2018)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$30.6 billion (Down by -2.6%)
- Vehicles: -$13 billion (Down by -13.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$5.4 billion (Up by 16.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.4 billion (Down by -2.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$5.3 billion (Down by -1.4%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$4.8 billion (Up by 5.4%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$4.1 billion (Up by 0.2%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.8 billion (Up by 2.1%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$3.8 billion (Down by -6%)
Canada has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products including computers spanning myriad types and sizes. Red ink under the machinery including computer category also encompasses bulldozers and similar heavy construction equipment.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Canada’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market including computer-related goods, but also represent key opportunities for Canada to improve its position in the global economy through targeted innovations.
Canadian Export Companies
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Canada. Selected examples are listed below.
- Barrick Gold (diversified metals, mining)
- Bombardier Inc. (aerospace, transit vehicles)
- Cameco (uranium)
- Canadian Natural Resources (oil, gas)
- Encana (oil, gas)
- Magna International (automotive parts)
- Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (specialized chemicals)
- Saputo (dairy products)
- Suncor Energy (oil, gas)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Canadian exporters:
- Interex Forest Products (wood, strand board)
- West Fraser Mills (wood, chemical woodpulp)
- Weyerhaeuser (wood, chemical woodpulp)
Searchable List of Canada’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Canada during 2019. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2018.
|Rank||Canada's Export Product||2019 Value (US$)||Change|
|4||Processed petroleum oils||$12,156,958,000||-0.3%|
|7||Medication mixes in dosage||$7,366,709,000||+10.4%|
|13||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$5,186,936,000||-10.5%|
|14||Iron ores, concentrates||$4,949,444,000||+20.7%|
|17||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$4,274,013,000||-20.4%|
|21||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$3,090,640,000||+9.4%|
|22||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$3,088,103,000||+11%|
|24||Copper ores, concentrates||$2,836,514,000||+0.6%|
|28||Dried shelled vegetables||$2,316,739,000||+11.2%|
|30||Armored vehicles, tanks||$2,109,742,000||+63.2%|
|32||Phone system devices||$1,859,646,000||-4.8%|
|33||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,845,339,000||-0.5%|
|34||Fresh or chilled beef||$1,769,830,000||+16%|
|35||Rubber tires (new)||$1,707,110,000||+0.4%|
|36||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$1,666,217,000||-4.2%|
|37||Computers, optical readers||$1,655,557,000||+7.2%|
|39||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,595,713,000||+10.7%|
|45||Liquid pumps and elevators||$1,477,589,000||-5.3%|
|46||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,436,724,000||-0.2%|
|47||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$1,434,306,000||-4.3%|
|48||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$1,429,219,000||+15.8%|
|49||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$1,425,285,000||-28.7%|
|50||Newsprint (rolls or sheets)||$1,400,937,000||-19.9%|
|51||Iron or steel scrap||$1,375,455,000||-24.6%|
|52||Precious metal waste, scrap||$1,336,796,000||+37%|
|53||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,324,976,000||+5.2%|
|54||Radioactive chemical elements||$1,322,350,000||+1.5%|
|55||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$1,290,334,000||-1.1%|
|56||Miscellaneous oil cakes||$1,270,222,000||-6.1%|
|57||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$1,265,356,000||-6.1%|
|58||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$1,230,869,000||+3.1%|
|60||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,174,371,000||+8.5%|
|61||Miscellaneous plastic items||$1,164,690,000||-10.3%|
|62||Other food preparations||$1,153,607,000||+4%|
|63||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$1,144,670,000||+8.1%|
|65||Petroleum oil residues||$1,126,791,000||-1.7%|
|67||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$1,094,434,000||-1.1%|
|68||Aircraft launch gear, ground fly trainer||$1,060,996,000||+15.1%|
|69||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,058,150,000||+2.1%|
|70||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$1,048,215,000||-8.3%|
|71||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,037,024,000||+1.3%|
|72||Nickel matte, oxide sinters||$1,026,917,000||-6.7%|
|73||Base metal mountings, fittings||$1,019,098,000||+2.7%|
|74||Piston engine parts||$1,016,606,000||-7.8%|
|76||Electrical converters/power units||$987,036,000||+0.7%|
|77||Live bovine cattle||$978,383,000||+19.8%|
|80||Lamps, lighting, illuminated signs||$927,417,000||+9.3%|
|81||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$923,388,000||-4.9%|
|83||Rubber/plastic article making machines||$905,387,000||+4.7%|
|84||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$904,812,000||-27.9%|
|85||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$904,568,000||-27.2%|
|86||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$885,859,000||-1.8%|
|87||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$882,459,000||+3.6%|
|88||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$856,068,000||+11.1%|
|93||Whole fish (fresh)||$763,300,000||-8.3%|
|94||Air or vacuum pumps||$754,200,000||+18.1%|
|96||Aluminum waste, scrap||$746,167,000||-16.5%|
|97||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$737,414,000||+15.5%|
|99||Other precious metal items||$705,737,000||+67.4%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$332.7 billion or 74.5% by value for all products exported from Canada during 2019.
In macroeconomic terms, Canada’s total exported goods represent 23.5% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1.9 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 23.5% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2019 compares to 24.5% one year earlier. This seems to indicate a slightly decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Canada’s total economic performance, albeit based on a limited timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Canada’s unemployment rate was 9% in September 2020, up from an average 5.794% for 2019 according to the International Monetary Fund.
See also Canada’s Top 10 Imports, Canada’s Top Trading Partners, Top Canadian Trade Balances and Canada’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
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Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on November 13, 2020
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