Trucks, auto parts or accessories, smartphones and other technology-related goods were major factors behind Canada’s highest product trade deficits during 2018. China and Mexico placed first and second respectively among trade partners with which Canada experienced the highest negative trade balances.
Canada’s total trade deficit for all products equaled -US$9.1 billion in 2018, up 5,998% from the -$149.5 million deficit for 2011. Year over year, the most recent -$9.1 billion shortfall represents a -23.6% decrease from the -$11.9 billion deficit that Canada incurred during 2017. That deficit reduction is partially driven by improving crude oil prices.
To put Canada’s trade deficit metric into perspective, the country’s total external debt encompassing both public and private red ink equaled -$2.019 trillion at March 2019. Canada’s external debt is the equivalent of more than 200 times its negative international trade balance.
Top Canadian Trade Balances by Product and Country
The following 10 leading products generated a surplus subtotal of $112.4 billion for Canada in its global trade during 2018. Metrics listed below highlight Canada’s strongest competitive advantages over worldwide trading partners.
- Crude oil: US$52 billion (Up 27.8% since 2011)
- Cars: $11.1 billion (Down -31.7%)
- Sawn wood: $7.8 billion (Up 55.6%)
- Petroleum gases: $7.5 billion (Down -35.6%)
- Gold (unwrought): $7.4 billion (Up 9.7%)
- Aluminum (unwrought): $5.9 billion (Down -2.9%)
- Wheat: $5.7 billion (Down -0.6%)
- Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving): $5.1 billion (Up 0.5%)
- Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $5 billion (Down -29.7%)
- Potassic fertilizers: $4.9 billion (Down -27.5%)
The leading value gainers for Canada’s product surpluses from 2011 to 2018 were exported sawn wood (up 55.6%), crude oil (up 27.8%) and gold (up 9.7%).
Positive trade balances were whittled down most dramatically over the 7-year period for petroleum gases (down -35.6%), cars (down -31.7%) then coal including solid fuels made from coal (down -29.7%).
The 10 major products below accumulated a deficit subtotal of -$56.6 billion for Canada in international trade during 2018. Canada has demonstrated the severest competitive disadvantages in the exports and imports of the following commodities.
- Trucks: -US$10 billion (Down -11.8% since 2011)
- Phone system devices including smartphones: -$9.1 billion (Up 44.4%)
- Automobile parts/accessories: -$8.8 billion (Down -12.1%)
- Computers, optical readers: -$7.8 billion (Up 1.4%)
- Processed petroleum oils: -$4.7 billion (reversing a $1.1 billion surplus)
- Tractors: -$4.1 billion (Up 31%)
- Heavy machinery (e.g. bulldozers, excavators): -$3.5 billion (Down -0.3%)
- Blood fractions (including antisera): -$3.3 billion (Up 165%)
- Insulated wire/cable: -$2.7 billion (Down -2.3%)
- Taps, valves, similar appliances: -$2.6 billion (Up 30.8%)
On a percentage basis, Canada’s red ink in global trade expanded at the fastest rate for the following products: blood fractions including antisera (up 165% from 2011), phone system devices including smartphones (up 44.4%) then tractors (up 31%).
Meanwhile, Canadian trade on foreign markets for refined petroleum oils slipped from $1.1 billion in black ink during 2011 to -$4.7 billion in red ink for 2018.
In 2018, Canada generated a surplus subtotal worth $114.5 billion with the following 10 trading partners.
- United States: US$103.1 billion (Down -5.1% since 2011)
- United Kingdom: $5.5 billion (Down -35.3%)
- Hong Kong: $2.7 billion (Up 3.1%)
- United Arab Emirates: $965.5 million (Up 109.3%)
- Botswana: $597.5 million (Up 12,607%)
- Latvia: $525.7 million (Up 2,278%)
- Bahamas: $309.4 million (Up 181.1%)
- Indonesia: $297 million (Up 36.8%)
- Netherlands: $211.3 million (Down -90.7%)
- Bahrain: $199.4 million (Up 189.3%)
Canada’s country-specific trade surplus with Botswana (up 12,607%) grew at the fastest pace since 2011, trailed by trade surplus expansions with Latvia (up 2,278%), Bahrain (up 189.3%) then the Bahamas (up 181.1%).
Among the top 10 surplus countries, Canada’s positive net exports declined over the 7-year period with three trade partners: Netherlands (down -90.7%), United Kingdom (down -35.3%) and United States (down -5.1%).
Canada experienced a losing international trade relationship with over 90 countries (islands or territories) in 2018. The following 10 trade partners created a -$93 billion deficit subtotal in 2018 from Canada’s exchange of exports and imports on global markets.
- China: -US$37 billion (Up 16.8% since 2011)
- Mexico: -$22.1 billion (Up 14.4%)
- Germany: -$11 billion (Up 21.2%)
- Italy: -$4.6 billion (Up 45%)
- Canada: -$3.4 billion (Down -15.2%)
- Vietnam: -$3.3 billion (Up 231.7%)
- Japan: -$3.01 billion (Up 24.7%)
- Taiwan: -$3 billion (Down -6.7%)
- France: -$2.9 billion (Up 15.9%)
- South Korea: -$2.8 billion (Up 80.9%)
Thanks to a 231.7% gain, Canada’s trade deficit with Vietnam expanded the most from 2011 to 2018. Canada’s negative net exports with Brazil swelled by 142.6% trailed by the 80.9% growth in red ink from trade with South Korea.
Canada shrank the size of its negative trade balances with Taiwan via a -6.7% reduction over the 7-year period.
See also Canada’s Top 10 Imports, Canada’s Top Trading Partners, Canada’s Top 10 Exports and Canada’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
External Debt (for specified countries), CEIC Data. Accessed on August 6, 2019
Trade Map, International Trade Centre. Accessed on August 6, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on March 11, 2019
The World Factbook, Field Listing: World, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on March 11, 2019
Wikipedia, Economy of Canada. Accessed on March 11, 2019