flag Canada Canada: Trade Profile

In this page: Foreign Trade in Figures | Trade Compliance | Standards

 

Foreign Trade in Figures

Canada is a country open to foreign trade, which represents 60% of its GDP (World Bank, 2020). Product-wise, Canada’s main exports are petroleum products (12.3%), motor cars and other vehicles (8.2%), gold (4.1%), and auto parts (2.3%). The country imports mainly vehicles (8.4%), auto parts or accessories (3.6%), automatic data processing machines and telephones (2.4% each - Comtrade).

The main destinations for Canada’s exports in 2020 were the U.S. (by far the leading partner, accounting for 73.3% of total exports), China (4.8%), the United Kingdom (3.8%), and Japan (2.4%). Similarly, almost half of Canada’s imports had a U.S. origin (48.8%), followed by China (14.1%), Mexico (5.5%), Germany (3.2%) and Japan (2.5% - Comtrade).

Canadian trade was weak in 2020: according to data by WTO, exports of goods amounted to USD 390.6 billion, down by 12.5% from the previous year. Imports – at USD 414.1 billion - followed a similar trend (-10.7%). Concerning commercial services, Canada is also a net importer, with imports standing at USD 90.1 billion versus USD 84.4 billion in exports. The country’s trade deficit widened in recent years, attributable to exports in goods lagging imports in goods, partly due to the low prices of hydrocarbons and to the trade tensions with its main business partner, the USA. Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union entered into force provisionally (it will take full effect once all EU Member States have formally ratified it) eliminating 98% of the tariffs, whereas the USMCA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, an updated version of NAFTA) entered into force and is expected to further boost trade among the participating countries. The World Bank estimated the country’s trade deficit at 2% of GDP in 2020. According to the latest governmental figures, Canadian exports advanced 18.7% in the first half of 2021 (y-o-y), as higher exports of resource products were partially offset by lower exports of motor vehicles and parts and aircraft and other transportation equipment. Commercial services is the only component of services trade that is now well above pre-pandemic levels, whereas transportation and travel have not yet begun their recovery. In the same period, total services exports were 19.3% below the pre-pandemic level in Q4 2019, and total services imports were 30.6% lower.

 
Foreign Trade Values 20172018201920202021
Imports of Goods (million USD) 443,169470,466463,786414,165504,017
Exports of Goods (million USD) 420,784450,743446,585390,599507,615
Imports of Services (million USD) 106,885119,605120,04390,175104,903
Exports of Services (million USD) 86,776102,243103,69884,434103,790

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 65.465.166.665.460.0
Trade Balance (million USD) -19,170-19,083-15,327-11,576-27,321
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -36,242-36,238-32,664-27,771-32,976
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.14.63.40.4-11.2
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.41.43.71.3-10.0
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 33.933.634.233.531.0
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 31.531.532.331.929.0

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

 
Foreign Trade Forecasts 2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)2026 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 1.41.12.12.22.9
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 8.62.21.33.22.2

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
United States 75.5%
China 4.5%
United Kingdom 2.6%
Japan 2.3%
Mexico 1.3%
See More Countries 13.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
United States 48.5%
China 14.0%
Mexico 5.5%
Germany 3.1%
Japan 2.5%
See More Countries 26.4%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 

Main Products

501.2 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 16.3%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 5.8%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 3.0%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.0%
Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled,...Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or end-jointed, of a thickness of > 6 mm 2.7%
See More Products 69.2%
489.5 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 5.7%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl....Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 3.0%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 2.9%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 2.7%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 2.4%
See More Products 83.2%

Source: Comtrade, last available data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import/Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

 

Exchange Rate System

Local Currency
Canadian dollar (CAD)
Exchange Rate Regime
The Bank of Canada controls and establishes the regulations concerning transfers of capital with foreign countries. There is free convertibility of currency, the right to transfer profits, capital, dividends, interest and fees.
Level of Currency Instability
The changes Canadian companies are facing are unprecedented. The meteoric rise in value of the Canadian dollar, the uncertainty of the world energy market, the tightening of credit, the slowing down of the American economy and the weakness of the whole of the manufacturing sector are all conditions which favor the instability of the Canadian dollar.
Exchange Rate on :

 
 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
American Dollar (USD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 CAD 0.750.770.770.770.75

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
International Economic Cooperation
Canada is a member of the following international economic organisations: North American Competitiveness Council (NACC), OECD, Organization of American States (OAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Commonwealth, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates Canada click here. International organisation membership of Canada is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by Canada can be consulted here.
Party of the ATA Convention on Temporary Admissions and Use of the Carnets
Yes

As a Reminder, the ATA is a System Allowing the Free Movement of Goods Across Frontiers and Their Temporary Admission Into a Customs Territory With Relief From Duties and Taxes. The Goods Are Covered By a Single Document Known as the ATA Carnet That is Secured By an International Guarantee System.
Party of the TIR Convention
Canada still belongs to the TIR Convention, but the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) does not accept the TIR carnet as a cargo control document for import, movement in transit, and export of goods.

As a Reminder, the TIR Convention and its Transit Regime Contribute to the Facilitation of International Transport, Especially International Road Transport, Not Only in Europe and the Middle East, But Also in Other Parts of the World, Such as Africa and Latin America.
Accompanying Documents For Imports
Goods must be accompanied by the following documents:
- the Single Administrative Document (SAD)
- the commercial or Customs invoice (in 4 copies, in English or in French);
- a phytosanitary certificate ( for fruit, vegetables, seeds and other plants);
- a health certificate ( for meat);
- a certificate of non-radioactive contamination (for meat, fruit and vegetables)
- the transport documents and packing list.

For any shipment with a value over 1,600 CAD, you must provide:
- either a commercial invoice (it shows all the information on the Customs invoice)
- or a commercial invoice plus a Customs invoice
- or a Customs invoice (which must contain all the required information).

Shipments with a value under 1,600 CAD can clear Customs on presentation of the commercial invoice. The Canadian ten figure classification must be included on the invoice.

To go further, check out our service Shipping Documents.

Free-trade zones
Canada does not have any specific free-trade zone. Under the USMCA, Canada operates as a free trade zone for products made in the United States.
For further information, consult the portal of the Canadian government.
According to Canada's legislation, a Free-Trade Zone Point refers to one of Canada’s strategic locations for international trade, where an organization with a mandate to promote local trade and foreign direct investment is  uniquely supported by a single-point of access to information on relevant government policies and programs. The main FTZPs are located in Winnipeg (Manitoba), Calgary (Calgary Region Inland Port; Port Albert, Edmonton region), Halifax, (Nova Scotia, since July 2015), and Regina (Global Transportation Hub, Saskatchewan, since August 2015).
For Further Information
Canada Border Services Agency
Global Affairs Canada
Non Tariff Barriers
The Canada Customs Act which regulates the Canadian import system, corresponds to a free trade model in which most imports do not require an authorisation. However, tariff quotas may be applied, especially for wheat, barley, beef and cheese. To be granted this quota one must request a General Import Permit, for which you must produce a pro forma invoice from the Export and Import Controls Bureau of the Ministry of Global Affairs.

Canada uses supply management systems - which involve production quotas, producer marketing boards to regulate price and supply, and border protection achieved through tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) - to regulate its dairy, chicken, turkey and egg industries. Alcoholic beverages are subject to interprovincial shipping restrictions, and are regulated differently in each province, for example through sales quotas, requirements for in-province agents and specific labelling. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) imposes quotas that determine both the minimum Canadian programming expenditure (CPE) and the minimum amount of Canadian programming that licensed Canadian broadcasters must carry (Exhibition Quota).

Some goods are prohibited, especially importing second hand motorised vehicles, except for vehicles coming from the USA (the rules are becoming more flexible for Mexico), as well as weapons, munitions, nuclear materials and goods of a similar nature. Health Canada restricts the marketing of breakfast cereals and other products, such as orange juice, that are fortified with vitamins and/or minerals at certain levels. Processed Products Regulations prescribe standard container sizes for a wide range of processed fruit and vegetable products.

The rules of origin allowing reduction of duties, especially for textiles, have been draconian since the agreements within the CUSMA. These rules are considerably favourable to products which have proof of their origin in the USA.

Moreover, Canada is one of the biggest users of anti-dumping measures, with more than 85 products concerned (SIMA, Special Import Measures Act). These measures affect 35 countries or Customs areas (including the EU, for example). More than 50% of the products concerned are metallurgical.

For further information about import regulations and procedures in Canada, please consult the article Importing Goods into Canada produced by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Sectors or Products For Which Commercial Disagreements Have Been Registered With the WTO
Agricultural products: cereals, salmon, meat, pork, grain, syrup, wheat, seal, lumber.
Biotechnologies, Aeronautics, Asbestos, Pharmaceutical products, Automobile parts.
Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country’s commercial policy, as seen by the WTO.
Barriers to exchanges, inventoried by the EU
Sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, inventoried by the EU

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Standards

National Standards Organisations
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) 
Canadian Standards Association
Bureau de Normalisation du Québec (BNQ)
Integration in the International Standards Network
Member of ISO, 381 sectors, products.
Member of IEC.
Member of the International Communication Union
Obligation to Use Standards
Some standards are mandatory such as those for fertilizers, others are voluntary and depend on the manufacturers' desire to commit themselves to observing them, as is the case, for example, for vehicles.
Classification of Standards
CSA marking
UL marking
Assessment of the System of Standardization
Canadians are more and more aware of standards, especially standards which concern their safety and their food. Most consumers are well informed and ensure that the products they buy or consume meet Canadian standards.
Online Consultation of Standards
Standards Store of the Standards Council of Canada (SCC)
CSA bookstore
ISO Catalog
Certification Organisations
Canadian General Standards Board
Canadian Standards Association

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Latest Update: November 2022