Exports fall to their lowest level in 19 months

by Canadian Shipper

Merchandise exports fell 1.7% in September to their lowest level in 19 months, and imports declined at almost three times that pace, according to Statistics Canada

That’s grim news for a Canadian economy which has relied on exports to fuel its growth and on transportation providers who have come to rely on transborder haul revenues.

Canadian companies exported just over $33.1 billion worth of merchandise, the lowest level since February 2000. Four of seven principal commodity groupings recorded declines. Imports dropped 4.6% to $28.4 billion; all principal commodity groups fell, except forestry products.

The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States caused temporary delays in the international flow of goods at the Canada-U.S. border.

A detailed examination of import transactions supplied by Canada Customs and Revenue Agency revealed a marked decline shortly after September 11, followed by a resumption to near-normal levels by month’s end. Analysis of imports by mode of transportation showed that rail gained at the expense of all other modes. Exports, however, saw a rise in marine movements.

“The September export data show a continuation of the decline that was established in previous months. The drop in imports, however, was considerably more than recent declines. This can be partly attributed to higher imports in August from countries other than the United States,” Statistics Canada reports. “It is, therefore, not possible to distinguish between the effects of September 11 and the general economic decline.”

Exports, which have been on a general decline since January’s record peak of $38.3 billion, have now fallen for six straight months.

With imports declining faster than exports, Canada’s trade surplus in September rose to just over $4.7 billion. The cumulative merchandise trade surplus for the first three quarters of 2001 was $51.1 billion, about $8.9 billion higher than in the same period of 2000.

Merchandise exports to the United States, Canada’s largest trading partner, fell 2.1% in September to $28.2 billion; imports from south of the border were down 4.4% to $20.4 billion. This pushed up the trade surplus with the United States to $7.8 billion.

Exports rose in only three principal commodity groups in September: agricultural and fishing products, industrial goods and consumer goods.

Of the major groupings, the biggest decline (-14.2%) occurred in energy exports, which dropped by over half a billion dollars to $3.6 billion, a result of declining prices of energy products. Natural gas exports decreased for the fifth straight month in September to $1.4 billion. The latest monthly decline of 14.9% put natural gas exports at nearly one-half what they were in April. Crude petroleum exports fell 14.6% to $1.2 billion, while the other energy products sub-sector, which includes electricity, petroleum and coal products, fell 12.6% to just under $1.0 billion.

Imports, which declined for the third month in a row in September, fell in six of the first nine months of 2001.

In September, imports of machinery and equipment fell 7.7% to $8.7 billion in the wake of across-the-board declines in virtually all sub-sectors. The aircraft and other transportation sector fell 18.0% to $1.3 billion, a drop of nearly one-third during August and September alone.

Imports of industrial and agricultural machinery declined 8.9% to $2.2 billion. Other machinery and equipment, which includes communications and related equipment, fell 4.6% to $3.7 billion, the third consecutive quarterly decline. Other communication and related equipment imports in September were nearly half what they were in December 2000.

Office machines and equipment imports fell 2.2% in September to $1.4 billion, down 17.2% from September 2000.

Auto manufacturing plant shutdowns in September led to a 7.2% decline in automotive products to just under $6.0 billion dollars. Imports of passenger automobiles dropped 19.5% to $1.8 billion, and truck imports decreased to $778.8 million. Motor vehicle parts imports rose a slight 0.9% to $3.4 billion.

For more information about the Statistics Canada data, contact Daryl Keen (613-951-1810), International Trade Division.

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