That dollar amount reflects a 19.5% increase since 2017 and a 29.1% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021, the Canadian dollar has strengthened by 3.8% against the US dollar since 2017 and by 6.7% from 2020 to 2021. Canada’s stronger local currency made Canadian exports paid for in weaker US dollars relatively more expensive for international buyers.
Canada’s 5 biggest export products by value in 2021 were crude oil, cars, gold, petroleum gases, gold and sawn wood. In aggregate, those major exports approach one third (30.7%) of the Canada’s overall exports sales. The commodities themselves suggest a modestly diversified range of exported goods.
Canada ranks among world-leading nations for exporting sawn wood, crude oil, cars and gold.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 91.3% of products exported from Canada were bought by importers in: United States of America (75.6% of the global total), mainland China (4.6%), United Kingdom (2.6%), Japan (2.3%), Mexico (1.3%), Germany (1.1%), South Korea (0.9%), Netherlands (0.8%), France (0.6%), Belgium (0.6%), Hong Kong (also 0.6%) and Norway (0.5%).
From a continental perspective, 76.9% of Canada exports by value were delivered to fellow North American countries while 11.8% were sold to Asian importers. Canada shipped another 8.5% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.5%), Africa (0.8%), and Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
Given Canada’s population of 38.2 million people, its total $503.8 billion in 2021 exports translates to roughly $13,182 for every resident. That per-capita metric is higher than the $10,300 average for 2020.
Canada’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Canadian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Canada.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$119.9 billion (23.8% of total exports)
- Vehicles: $45.8 billion (9.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $33 billion (6.5%)
- Gems, precious metals: $24.3 billion (4.8%)
- Wood: $22.6 billion (4.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $16.9 billion (3.4%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $13.3 billion (2.6%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $12.6 billion (2.5%)
- Aluminum: $12.2 billion (2.4%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: $10.5 billion (2.1%)
Canada’s top 10 exports accounted for 61.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 74.1% since 2019.
In second place for improving export sales was wood which was up by 68.1%.
Canada’s shipments of aluminum posted the third-fastest gain in value thanks to a 46.1% increase year over year.
The sole decliner among Canada’s top 10 export categories was vehicles which fell -0.9%.
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.
Canada’s Major Food Exports
Calculated based on the overall $503.4 billion worth of products shipped from Canada in 2021, food exports amounted to a subtotal $60.2 billion or 12% of Canadian exported goods.
The value of Canada’s international food shipments increased by 32.2% compared to 2017. Canada enjoyed a 19% uptick in food-related revenues from 2020 to 2021.
The most valuable food category for Canadian shippers was cereals representing 14.5% of Canada’s food sales. The cereals product category was bolstered by higher global export sales particularly for wheat, and to a lesser extent barley, corn and oats.
Canada was the world’s fourth-biggest exporter of wheat in 2021 trailing the United States, Russia and Australia.
In second place were exports of oil seeds accounting for 14.3% of total value for Canadian food exports.
Other major categories include meat led by Canada’s exports of pork and beef (12.5% of food total), fish and other seafood (10.5%), vegetables notably shelled and dried leguminous vegetables (9%), then animal or vegetable fats, oils and waxes (8.7%).
Products Generating Trade Surpluses for Canada
Canada generated a $14.5 billion trade surplus for 2021, reversing -$14.4 billion in red ink one year earlier.
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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$89.7 billion (Up by 83.8% since 2020)
- Wood: $18.7 billion (Up by 75.6%)
- Ores, slag, ash: $9.6 billion (Up by 34.1%)
- Oil seeds: $7.4 billion (Up by 12.0%)
- Cereals: $7.3 billion (Up by 8.2%)
- Aluminum: $7.2 billion (Up by 56.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $5.6 billion (Up by 1.7%)
- Woodpulp: $5.6 billion (Up by 22.2%)
- Meat: $5.2 billion (Up by 27.1%)
- Fertilizers: $4.4 billion (Up by 19.2%)
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.
Products Causing Trade Deficits for Canada
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$37.7 billion (Up by 16.7% since 2020)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$33.6 billion (Up by 17.7%)
- Vehicles: -$21.4 billion (Up by 119.2%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$9 billion (Up by 56.3%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$6 billion (Up by 18.7%)
- Articles of iron or steel: -$5.5 billion (Up by 27%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: -$4.9 billion (Up by 24.2%)
- Fruits, nuts: -$4.7 billion (Up by 10.4%)
- Toys, games: -$4.6 billion (Up by 36.8%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: -$4.3 billion (Up by 16.7%)
Canada has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for products including computers spanning myriad types and sizes. Red ink under the machinery including computer category also encompasses bulldozers and similar heavy construction equipment.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate Canada’s competitive disadvantages in the international machinery market including computer-related goods, but also represent key opportunities for Canada to improve its position in the global economy through targeted innovations.
Canadian Export Companies
Wikipedia lists many of the larger international trade players from Canada.
- Barrick Gold (diversified metals, mining)
- Bombardier Inc. (aerospace, transit vehicles)
- Cameco (uranium)
- Canadian Natural Resources (oil, gas)
- Encana (oil, gas)
- Magna International (automotive parts)
- Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (specialized chemicals)
- Saputo (dairy products)
- Suncor Energy (oil, gas)
According to global trade intelligence firm Zepol, the following smaller companies are also examples of leading Canadian exporters.
- Interex Forest Products (wood, strand board)
- West Fraser Mills (wood, chemical woodpulp)
- Weyerhaeuser (wood, chemical woodpulp)
Searchable List of Canada’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from Canada during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Canada's Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|6||Processed petroleum oils||$11,477,574,000||+59.6%|
|8||Medication mixes in dosage||$8,470,986,000||+12.3%|
|10||Iron ores, concentrates||$8,058,156,000||+41%|
|13||Coal, solid fuels made from coal||$6,050,825,000||+78.2%|
|18||Chemical woodpulp (non-dissolving)||$4,346,776,000||+25.5%|
|20||Copper ores, concentrates||$4,184,914,000||+29.9%|
|21||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$4,144,158,000||+60.3%|
|22||Particle board, other ligneous materials||$4,119,053,000||+106.4%|
|23||Bread, biscuits, cakes, pastries||$3,782,923,000||+20.7%|
|25||Dried shelled vegetables||$2,949,590,000||-7.8%|
|28||Fresh or chilled beef||$2,530,471,000||+40.2%|
|31||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$2,364,918,000||+209.4%|
|32||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$2,341,163,000||+23%|
|33||Iron or steel scrap||$2,339,840,000||+74.7%|
|36||Other precious metal items||$2,063,912,000||+64.2%|
|38||Precious metal waste, scrap||$1,896,682,000||+12.9%|
|40||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,791,713,000||+22.3%|
|41||Chocolate, other cocoa preparations||$1,769,495,000||+9.9%|
|42||Rubber tires (new)||$1,757,185,000||+29%|
|44||Miscellaneous oil cakes||$1,734,516,000||+23.9%|
|45||Phone system devices||$1,710,092,000||+7.5%|
|46||Wood carpentry, builders' joinery||$1,702,740,000||+35.6%|
|48||Computers, optical readers||$1,638,384,000||+11.5%|
|49||Armored vehicles, tanks||$1,613,398,000||+47.2%|
|51||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$1,586,588,000||+10.1%|
|52||Seats (excluding barber/dentist chairs)||$1,559,491,000||+10.8%|
|53||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,493,894,000||+16.6%|
|54||Petroleum oil residues||$1,481,819,000||+71.7%|
|55||Other food preparations||$1,479,454,000||+17.9%|
|56||Radioactive chemical elements||$1,467,383,000||-0.9%|
|58||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$1,437,885,000||+39.4%|
|60||Other prepared/preserved vegetables (frozen)||$1,341,503,000||+25.6%|
|61||Beauty/makeup/skin care preparations||$1,334,456,000||+25.3%|
|62||Miscellaneous plastic items||$1,332,581,000||+14.2%|
|63||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$1,316,283,000||+87.8%|
|64||Uncoated paper for writing/printing||$1,309,371,000||+5.6%|
|65||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$1,284,745,000||+44.8%|
|66||Nickel matte, oxide sinters||$1,282,922,000||+31.6%|
|67||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$1,280,951,000||+27.3%|
|68||Liquid pumps and elevators||$1,258,218,000||+2.1%|
|69||Electrical/optical circuit boards, panels||$1,247,285,000||+29.7%|
|72||Aluminum waste, scrap||$1,131,829,000||+80.6%|
|74||Other measuring/testing machines||$1,109,057,000||+16.4%|
|75||Miscellaneous animal feed preparations||$1,105,642,000||+10.6%|
|76||Newsprint (rolls or sheets)||$1,073,470,000||+11.5%|
|77||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$1,053,355,000||+5.6%|
|78||Base metal mountings, fittings||$1,015,825,000||+24.2%|
|79||Electrical converters/power units||$996,276,000||+11.9%|
|80||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$966,456,000||+24.6%|
|81||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$957,187,000||+4.5%|
|83||Paper containers, cellulose wadding||$938,317,000||+8.2%|
|85||TV receiver/transmit/digital cameras||$923,493,000||+16%|
|87||Initiators/accelerators, catalytic preps||$890,889,000||+121.8%|
|88||Live bovine cattle||$879,006,000||-1.8%|
|91||Whole fish (fresh)||$864,160,000||+27.7%|
|92||Miscellaneous fresh/chilled vegetables||$863,333,000||+3.9%|
|93||Other diagnostic/lab reagents||$859,276,000||+0.5%|
|96||Copper waste, scrap||$818,794,000||+81.2%|
|97||Physical/chemical analysis tools||$815,815,000||+15.1%|
|99||Flat-rolled other alloy steel products||$802,810,000||+79.3%|
|100||Piston engine parts||$799,606,000||+13.1%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$376.2 billion or about three-quarters (74.7%) by value for all products exported from Canada during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, Canada’s total exported goods represent 24.8% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($2.027 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 24.8% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 compares to 21.6% one year earlier. Those percentages suggest an increasing 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 7.723% at October 2021 according to the International Monetary Fund, lower than the average 9.6% for 2020.
See also Canada’s Top 10 Imports, Canada’s Top Trading Partners, Top Canadian Trade Balances, Canada’s Top 10 Major Export Companies and World’s Top Food Exports Special Data Report
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