Canadian International Merchandise Trade (Customs Basis)

Detailed information for September 2022





Record number:


Purpose: To provide statistical information and analysis of the value of Canada's merchandise exports and imports by commodity, province or territory, partner country, and other relevant dimensions on a customs basis.

Data release - November 3, 2022


Information on imports and exports are inputs into the Canadian Macroeconomic 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, identify market opportunities, monitor commodity price and volume changes, and examine transport implications of trade flows.

Statistical activity

This activity is part of the Canadian International Merchandise Trade 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 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

Target population

Canadian merchandise imports and exports.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


The administrative data collected in this program are a census. Data are collected for all units of the target population, therefore no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files.

Import data are collected via electronic transmission of Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) B3 forms. Data for exports to the United States are collected via electronic transmission of United States Census Bureau data compiled from United States Customs and Border Protection documents. Non-US export data are received from Canadian exporters via electronic transmissions submitted to the CBSA.

In general, merchandise trade statistics are compiled from administrative records used by customs agencies to facilitate and oversee the flow of goods across the frontier.

When goods are imported into Canada, B3 Canada Customs Coding forms must be submitted to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and include the description and value of the merchandise, their place of origin, port of clearance, the mode of transport used, etc. These import documents are used in compiling customs-based IMPORT statistics. The CBSA electronically transmits import data from the B3 documents to Statistics Canada on a weekly basis.

Exporters shipping to Non-US destinations are required to submit declarations for their merchandise with the CBSA. Statistics Canada compiles its non-US export statistics on a customs basis using these declarations.

Exporters may file declarations electronically using the CBSA's Canadian Export Reporting System (CERS) software, G7 Electronic Data Interchange Export Reporting program, or Export Summary Reporting program. The CBSA electronically transmits export data to Statistics Canada on a daily basis.

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 and Border Protection Service 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 estimated for the current month using publicly-available information and subsequently replaced as survey and administrative data become available.

Canadian export data are received from multiple sources; they are compiled by Statistics Canada prior to publication.

Estimates of late arrival imports are calculated for the current month only, and are removed in subsequent releases. Estimates are based on historical patterns.

For natural gas exports, data from third party sources and trends in historical data from Statistics Canada's Monthly Crude Oil and Natural Gas (MCONG) program are used to estimate growth rates for the most recent two months, with the relative increases to price and volume applied to the most recent MCONG results available. Values are implicitly calculated from the price and volume. Estimated data are replaced with MCONG statistics once these become available. For electricity exports, ARIMA models are used to forecast the price and volume for the most recent month, with Canada Energy Regulator (CER) monthly data from the previous 7 years used as inputs. Forecast movements for electricity price and volume are applied to the actual CER data received for the previous month to arrive at the value published for the most recent month. Estimated data are replaced with values from CER export reports once these become available.

Error detection

Business rules, validation edits, combination edits, and unit value edits are performed on both import and export micro data during the edit and imputation process.

Business rules are applied at load to remove all out-of-scope transactions, recode incorrect information, or identify transactions for manual review.

Validation edits and combination edits are applied at load. 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 ensure that logic is maintained between related variables. Edits are normally immediately followed by a corresponding imputation.

Unit value edits may be applied at load or in a batch process later during processing. 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 and imputed.


Both manual and automated imputations are performed on import and export 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 selecting a valid 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 end-of-day 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. Census Bureau (USCB) 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 sources 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. The previous year's 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.

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 published data tables.

Data accuracy

The administrative data used to compile trade statistics are 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. 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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