Canadian International Merchandise Trade (Customs Basis)

Detailed information for January 2012





Record number:


This activity is conducted to provide statistical information and analysis of the value of Canada's merchandise exports and imports by commodity and by partner country.

Data release - March 9, 2012


This activity is conducted to provide statistical information and analysis of the value of Canada's merchandise exports and imports by commodity and by partner country.

Information on imports and exports are inputs into the Canadian System of National Accounts, particularly in the Balance of Payments and Gross Domestic Product, and are used in the formulation of trade and budgetary policies. Governments, importers, exporters, manufacturers and shipping companies use trade statistics to monitor import penetration and export performance, monitor commodity price and volume changes and examine transport implications.

Statistical activity

This activity is part of the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Statistical Program. The primary objective of this statistical program is to measure the change in the stock of material resources of Canada resulting from the movement of merchandise into or out of the country.

Canadian trade statistics are compiled according to the "General" system of trade as defined by the United Nations Statistical Office. The general trade system is in use when the statistical territory of a country coincides with its economic territory. Consequently, under the general trade system, imports include all goods entering the economic territory of a compiling country, and exports include all goods leaving the economic territory of a compiling country.

The closing of the statistical month for imports and exports is defined as the last calendar day of the month based on the date of clearance from Customs. Documents received too late for incorporation in the current month are assigned to the month the transaction took place and are published the following statistical month.

Additional information about the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Statistical Program is available through the link that follows.

Reference period: Month

Collection period: Calendar month


  • Balance of international payments
  • Economic accounts
  • International trade
  • Merchandise exports
  • Merchandise imports

Data sources and methodology

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files.

When goods are imported to or exported from Canada, declarations must be filed with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and include the description and value of the goods, their place of origin and port of clearance and the mode of transport of the goods into or out of the country. These Customs declarations are used in compiling Customs-basis statistics.

Import data are received from the Canada Border Services Agency through electronic import transaction entries. Data for Canada's exports to countries other than United States are compiled by the Canadian International Merchandise Trade Statistical Program (CIMTSP) from export declarations received via the CBSA.

Since 1990, Canada and the United States have exchanged import data; the import data of one partner country are used to derive the export data of the other. Canada's exports to the United States are compiled using United States import statistics (from the U.S. Customs Border Protection via the U.S. Census Bureau) and account for the majority of Canada's export trade. This procedure is used for all of Canada's exports to the United States except exports of natural gas and electricity. These two commodities are recorded directly from Canadian sources in both Canadian and U.S. Customs data, as the Canadian sources are viewed as more accurate than U.S. import data for these series.

Error detection

Validation, combination, unit value and 'reasonableness' edits are performed on both imports and exports data during the edit and imputation process. Validity checks ensure that a reported variable respects its defined characteristics, e.g., numeric variables are reported as numeric, valid codes have been provided, etc. Combination edits include commodity/country, commodity/trader and commodity/province. Unit value lows and highs are calculated for each Harmonized System (HS) code. Data that fall within this range are accepted while those that fail are rejected.


Both manual and automated imputations are performed on imports and exports data. If manual corrective action is required, often a link to the electronic invoice will suffice to obtain the necessary information. Otherwise, a follow-up with the importer, exporter or their representative, the broker is carried out.

Data that fail the edits and are below a value threshold are automatically imputed. In the case of a unit value failure the quantity is the variable automatically imputed. Quantity is imputed by randomly selecting a unit value between a high and a low unit value range.


Import and export values are disseminated in Canadian dollars and can require conversion from reported currencies. Foreign currencies are converted using the Bank of Canada monthly average based on the daily noon rates.

There are two currency conversion processes involved in Canada's export transactions to the U.S. Imports must be reported to the U.S. Customs agency in U.S. dollars for accounting. In turn, these data (in U.S. dollars) are transmitted to the USCB which converts them to Canadian dollars prior to transmitting to Statistics Canada.

Export data for natural gas and electricity are estimated for the current and previous months as this information is not received from source in time.

Quality evaluation

Transaction-level data are aggregated and subjected to month over month and year over year analysis to detect errors and explain observed movements.

The models used to seasonally adjust are reviewed annually by the Economic Statistics Methods Division of Statistics Canada.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

The Canadian International Merchandise Trade Program (CIMTP) of Statistics Canada is similar to most other countries in its use of administrative data derived from Customs sources to produce merchandise trade data and its use of the 'passive suppression' approach for confidentiality. Passive suppression is based on the principle that confidential data will not knowingly be released. It requires that appropriate measures be taken only at the request of importers or exporters who feel that their interests would be harmed by the dissemination of data. The onus of notifying CIMTP of suspected instances of the release of confidential data rests with the affected companies.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Merchandise trade data are revised on an ongoing basis for each month of the current year. Current year revisions are reflected in both the Customs and BOP based data. The previous year's Customs data are revised with the release of the January and February reference months as well as on a quarterly basis. The previous two years of Customs based data are revised annually and are released in February with the December reference month. The previous year's BOP based data are revised with the release of the January, February and March reference months. Revisions to BOP based data for the previous four years, are released annually in June with the April reference month.

Factors influencing revisions include late receipt of import and export documentation, incorrect information on Customs forms, replacement of estimates produced for the energy section with actual figures, changes in classification of merchandise based on more current information, and changes to seasonal adjustment factors.

Revised data are available in the appropriate CANSIM tables.

Data accuracy

The administrative data used to compile trade statistics is considered to be complete and accurate. Any anomalies or inconsistencies detected are verified with the source, and where necessary, adjustments are made to reconcile data with the conceptual framework of the series. The administrative agencies used are considered to be the best source available.

It is not unusual for the accuracy of export statistics to be adversely affected by undercoverage and/or country misallocation. While Statistics Canada does not have a direct measure of undercoverage, a monthly estimated adjustment is included within balance of payments based data. Country misallocation occurs when the country of final destination is inaccurately reported on the Customs documentation. This occurs most frequently when goods are routed through an intermediary country before continuing to their final destination with the intermediary country being reported as the final destination of the goods.


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