Canadian Trade by the Numbers

Canadian Trade by the Numbers


What products does Canada give to the world? Maple syrup, lumber, Molson and Labatt?

These are all things the Great White North is commonly associated with, and typically thought of as the country’s biggest exports. In actuality, with exports of roughly $215.4 million in beer, and about $600 million in maple syrup (yes, almost three times more than beer), it’s a drop in the distillery vat. Wood only constitutes a little over 3% of Canada’s exports, at about $14.1 billion. If you guessed mineral fuels, including oil, as being the country’s top export, you’d be correct – a fifth of Canada’s total exports are mineral fuels, worth more than $112 billion annually.

Canada’s other top exports are cars and automotive parts, machinery (computers), precious metals and gems, electrical equipment, plastic, aluminum and aircrafts/spacecraft parts. However, the above only make up about 60% of Canada’s total exports.

As one might expect, the auto and fuel industry provide massive job opportunities for Canadians. Of 18.6 million working Canadians, about 2.6 million are either directly or indirectly employed in the automotive industry, according to the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, while the oil industry employs almost 200,000 people.

But just because fossil fuels and vehicles happen to run the nation’s economic engine, it doesn’t make things like aluminum and steel unimportant. In fact, last year the steel industry employed more than 23,000 Canadians and contributed $4.2 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product. Meanwhile, the aluminum industry employed 10,500 workers, contributing $4.7 billion to GDP. Together, these are “vital suppliers to the Canadian manufacturing, energy, automotive, and construction industries,” says the federal government.

To protect these specific resources, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced increased funding for the Canada Border Services Agency and Global Affairs Canada. More than $30 million over five years (and $6.8 million per year after that) will be allocated to hiring and training 40 new officers to investigate trade-related complaints, identify and stop importers avoiding tariffs, and monitor foreign goods benefiting from unfair subsidies.

In terms of first-world global trade, Forbes ranked the Best Countries for Doing Business for 2018, and Canada came in at number five, behind Sweden, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Below Canada were Hong Kong, Ireland, and Denmark.

Emerging economies, meanwhile, might someday provide Canada with greater export opportunities, as well as reason to compete more aggressively. The “rising stars of global trade” include India and Brazil. Morgan Stanley points out that Brazil is bouncing back from an economic dip, while India has increased digitization, and its new tax laws and younger demographics “present a bright future.”

In coming years, trade may take quite a different turn as renewable energy is primed to be one of the world’s biggest exports. According to Export Development Canada, global investment in clean energy and renewable technology has surpassed $1 trillion and is expected to more than double in two years. Jumping on this trend, Canada has earmarked $1 billion for research and development of so-called cleantech. In addition, the Trade Commissioner Service hired 15 Trade Commissioners to zone in on cleantech.

Canada has a wealth of natural resources that make it the envy of many of its neighbours and partners, and its thriving tech industry means it won’t be left behind as industries evolve. As global trade moves into the future, Canada remains poised to thrive.


Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer


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