Canada’s Top 10 Exports

Canada's Top 10 Exports


Exports from Canada–the country nicknamed the Great White North–amounted to US$390 billion in 2016 up by 23.7% since 2009 when the Great Recession kicked in but down by -4.6% from 2015 to 2016.

Canada’s top 10 exports accounted for 61.5% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Canada’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $1.674 trillion as of November 2016.

Therefore, exports accounted for about 23.3% of total Canadian economic output.

From a continental perspective, 77.8% of Canadian exports (by value) were delivered to its North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) partners, United States and Mexico. Asian importers purchased 11.1% followed by European imports at 8.4%. Latin America (excluding Mexico) and the Caribbean consumed 1.4% of Canada’s total exports.

Given Canada’s population of 35.4 million people, its total $390 billion in 2016 exports translates to roughly $11,000 for every resident in that country.

Canada’s unemployment rate was 6.8% as of January 2017 down from 7.2% one year earlier, 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 2016. 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 number one export is cars followed by crude oil, gold, automotive parts or accessories, refined petroleum oils, petroleum gas then sawn or chipped wood.

  1. Vehicles: US$64.3 billion (16.5% of total exports)
  2. Mineral fuels including oil: $62.3 billion (16%)
  3. Machinery including computers: $30 billion (7.7%)
  4. Gems, precious metals: $18.7 billion (4.8%)
  5. Wood: $13.2 billion (3.4%)
  6. Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.6 billion (3.2%)
  7. Plastics, plastic articles: $12.1 billion (3.1%)
  8. Aircraft, spacecraft: $10.3 billion (2.6%)
  9. Pharmaceuticals: $8.4 billion (2.2%)
  10. Aluminum: $8.1 billion (2.1%)

Wood was the fastest-grower among Canada’s top 10 export categories, up 101.8% for the 7-year period starting in 2009.

In second place for improving export sales were vehicles which gained 90.6%.

Led by gold and silver, the gems and precious metals category posted the third-fastest gain at 77.1%.

Mineral fuels including oil decreased in value by -13.6%. The other top Canadian export category to decline was electrical machinery and equipment which posted a -11.1% setback compared to 2009.


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 is 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$37 billion (Down by -11.7% since 2009)
  2. Wood: $10.3 billion (Up by 156%)
  3. Gems, precious metals: $8.1 billion (Up by 270.1%)
  4. Oil seeds: $6.3 billion (Up by 53.2%)
  5. Woodpulp: $5.4 billion (Up by 25.3%)
  6. Cereals: $4.9 billion (Down by -10.6%)
  7. Aluminum: $4.5 billion (Up by 11.2%)
  8. Ores, slag, ash: $3.4 billion (Up by 6.3%)
  9. Aircraft, spacecraft: $3.3 billion (Down by -19.3%)
  10. Fertilizers: $3.2 billion (Down by -13.3%)

Canada has highly positive net exports in the international trade of crude oil and petroleum gases but typically runs billion-dollar deficits for refined oil products. The positive cashflows indicate Canada’s strong competitive advantages in raw resources segments of the energy market.


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. Overall, Canada incurred a -$13 billion trade deficit for 2016 up 115% from -$6.1 billion during 2009.

  1. Machinery including computers: -US$31.9 billion (Up by 57.4% since 2009)
  2. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$27 billion (Up by 38.3%)
  3. Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.7 billion (Up by 12.2%)
  4. Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$4.1 billion (Up by 35.1%)
  5. Articles of iron or steel: -$4 billion (Up by 18.4%)
  6. Fruits, nuts: -$3.9 billion (Up by 40.2%)
  7. Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$3.8 billion (Up by 43.4%)
  8. Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): -$3.6 billion (Up by 19.3%)
  9. Vehicles : -$3.3 billion (Down by -65.9%)
  10. Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: -$3.1 billion (Up by 18.1%)

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

These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Canada’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market, 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:

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

According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Canadian exporters for 2014:

  • Weyerhaeuser (wood, chemical woodpulp)
  • Interex Forest Products (wood, strand board)
  • West Fraser Mills (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 Import 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 11, 2017

The World Factbook, Country Profiles, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 11, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, Accessed on February 11, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 10, 2016

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Canada. Accessed on February 10, 2016

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