Nicknamed the Great White North, the Dominion of Canada shares its busy and extensive southern land border with its largest trading partner–the United States of America.
Canada shipped US$390.8 billion worth of products around the globe in 2020. That dollar amount reflects a 0.1% increase since 2016 but a -12.5% decrease from 2019 to 2020.
Applying a continental lens, 74.6% of Canada’s exports by value were delivered to fellow North American countries while 12.3% were sold to Asian importers. Canada shipped another 10.1% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.4%), Africa (1%) then Oceania led by Australia and New Zealand (0.5%).
Canada’s Top Trading Partners
Below is a list showcasing 15 of Canada’s top trading partners, countries that imported the most Canadian shipments by dollar value during 2020. Also shown is each import country’s percentage of total Canadian exports.
- United States: US$287.1 billion (73.5% of total Canadian exports)
- China: $18.8 billion (4.8%)
- United Kingdom: $15 billion (3.8%)
- Japan: $9.2 billion (2.4%)
- Germany: $4.8 billion (1.2%)
- Mexico: $4.6 billion (1.2%)
- Netherlands: $4.1 billion (1%)
- South Korea: $3.5 billion (0.9%)
- France: $2.8 billion (0.7%)
- Italy: $2.8 billion (0.7%)
- India: $2.7 billion (0.7%)
- Norway: $1.9 billion (0.5%)
- Belgium: $1.9 billion (0.5%)
- Brazil: $1.6 billion (0.4%)
- Australia: $1.6 billion (0.4%)
Over nine-tenths (92.7%) of Canadian exports in 2020 were delivered to the above 15 trade partners.
Leading increases among Canada’s top trade partners belong to Norway (up 17.1%), Italy (up 12.8%) then China (up 7.2%).
Leading decliners in terms of consuming Canadian exports were India (down -24.1%), Belgium (down -20.2%) and Mexico (down -16.7%).
The value of Canada’s shipments to its largest customer, the United States, fell by -14.8% from 2019 to 2020.
Overall Canada incurred a -$6.6 billion trade deficit for 2020, down by -27.8% from the -$9.1 billion in red ink one year earlier.
As defined by Investopedia, a country whose total value of all imported goods is higher than its value of all exports is said to have a negative trade balance or deficit.
It would be unrealistic for any exporting nation to expect across-the-board positive trade balances with all its importing partners. Similarly, that export country doesn’t necessarily post a negative trade balance with each individual partner with which it exchanges exports and imports.
Canada incurred the highest trade deficits with the following countries.
- China: -US$38.4 billion (country-specific trade deficit in 2020)
- Mexico: -$17.7 billion
- Germany: -$8.1 billion
- Vietnam: -$5.6 billion
- Italy: -$4 billion
- South Korea: -$3.7 billion
- Brazil: -$3.3 billion
- Switzerland: -$3 billion
- Canada: -$3 billion
- Taiwan: -$2.9 billion
Among Canada’s trading partners that cause the greatest negative trade balances, Canadian deficits with Brazil (up 39.8%), Vietnam (up 22.9%) and South Korea (up 17.5%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Canada’s competitive disadvantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Canada to develop country-specific strategies to strengthen its overall position in international trade.
Based on Investopedia’s definition of net importer, a country whose total value of all imported goods is lower than its value of all exports is said to have a positive trade balance or surplus.
Canada incurred the highest trade surpluses with the following countries.
- United States: US$89.6 billion (country-specific trade surplus in 2020)
- United Kingdom: $9.2 billion
- Netherlands: $1.7 billion
- United Arab Emirates: $1.1 billion
- Norway: $1 billion
- Hong Kong: $1 billion
- Algeria: $430 million
- Iran: $289 million
- Botswana: $217.7 million
- Malta: $176.8 million
Among Canada’s trading partners that cause the greatest positive trade balances, Canadian surpluses with Netherlands (up 326.2%), Malta (up 259.3%) and Norway (up 116.3%) grew at the fastest pace from 2019 to 2020.
These positive cashflow streams clearly indicate Canada’s competitive advantages with the above countries, but also represent key opportunities for Canada to develop country-specific strategies to optimize its overall position in international trade.
Companies Servicing Canadian Trading Partners
Almost 60 Canadian corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. Below is a sample of the major Canadian companies that Forbes included.
- Agrium (specialized chemicals)
- Canadian Natural Resources (oil, gas)
- Enbridge (oil services, equipment)
- Husky Energy (oil, gas)
- Magna International (auto parts, accessories)
- Potash of Saskatchewan (specialized chemicals)
- Suncor Energy (oil, gas)
- Teck Resources (diversified metals)
According to Canadian Exports online directory, the following are examples of smaller entrepreneurial companies that ship products from Canada to its trading partners around the globe. Shown within parenthesis is the product category that the Canadian business specializes in.
- A.S. Chemical Laboratories Inc. (pharmaceuticals)
- Aerospace Metal Finishing Inc. (plated surface finishes)
- Centennial Solar (solar panels)
- C-I-L Explosives (specialty explosives)
- Ciment Quebec Inc. (cement)
- Control Skateboards (customized skateboards)
- Cormer Group Industries Inc. (aircraft components)
- Hi-Pro Feeds (animal nutrition products)
- International Play Company (indoor/outdoor play structures)
- Lafleur Industries Inc. (truck chassis, parts)
- Netchem Inc. (specialized chemicals)
- Seven Star Sports (designer safety helmets)
See also Canada’s Top 10 Imports, Canada’s Top 10 Exports, Top Canadian Trade Balances and Canada’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Country Profiles. Accessed on February 23, 2021
Forbes Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on February 23, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on February 23, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 23, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on February 23, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on February 23, 2021
Richest Country Reports, Key Statistics Powering Global Wealth. Accessed on February 23, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on February 23, 2021