Canadian International Merchandise Trade (Balance of Payments Basis)

Detailed information for September 2023





Record number:


Purpose: To provide statistical information and analysis of the value of Canada's merchandise exports and imports by commodity and partner country on a balance of payments basis.

Data release - November 7, 2023


This activity consists of adjusting the values of Canada's imports and exports from the customs basis to the balance of payments basis.

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.

Statistical activity

The Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts provides a conceptually integrated statistical framework for studying the state and behaviour of the Canadian economy. The accounts are centered on the measurement of activities associated with the production of goods and services, the sales of goods and services in final markets, the supporting financial transactions and the resulting wealth positions.

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 collected from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

Data on Canadian merchandise trade are obtained from Canadian International Merchandise Trade (Customs Basis) - Statistical Program # 2201.

Additional inputs are sourced from other Statistics Canada programs.

The administrative data are sourced from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Canada Energy Regulator and are compiled by the Canadian International Merchandise Trade program # 2201.

Adjustments are applied to international merchandise trade data (customs basis) at aggregate levels (by NAPCS group and principal trading partner) by the program Canada's Balance of International Payments (No. 1534), to account for freight, changes of ownership, country of last shipment, prices and quantities of energy trade, and under-coverage.

The major difference between customs and balance of payments concepts is that customs data reflect trade crossing from one economic territory to another whereas balance of payment data reflect changes of ownership between residents and non-residents of Canada.

In the compilation of balance of payments basis crude oil export statistics, customs basis values are replaced by data from other sources, which are deemed to more accurately reflect the timing of export shipments. Balance of Payments basis values are calculated by using weighted average monthly export prices from the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), freight information from publically available sources and Statistics Canada's Canadian Freight Analysis Framework (CFAF), and volume information compiled from Statistics Canada pipeline surveys and customs documentation.

Error detection

Data are validated by the program Canada's Balance of International Payments (No. 1534).


This methodology does not apply.


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. 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 month as this information is not received from source in time. Adjustments are also made to the customs data to account for freight, changes of ownership, country of last shipment, and under-coverage.

For the current month, crude oil export volumes and prices are also estimated, as source data for Balance of Payments basis crude oil statistics is not received in time.

Quality evaluation

Automated checks are performed to ensure the proper application of balance of payment adjustments to commodity groups and principal trading partners.

Time series are reviewed for possible errors.

The models used to seasonally adjust the monthly data 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

The previous year's data are revised with the release of the January, February, March and April reference months. To remain consistent with the Canadian System of Macroeconomic Accounts, revisions to data for previous years are released annually in December with the October 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.

Data response error or non-response error may be possible where survey data are used to supplement the administrative data. Data response error may be due to questionnaire design, the characteristics of a question, inability or unwillingness of the respondent to provide correct information, misinterpretation of the questions or definitional problems. Non-response error is related to respondents that may refuse to answer, are unable to respond or are too late in reporting. In these cases, data are imputed. The extent of any imputation error decreases with increases in the response rate and attempts are therefore made to obtain as high a response rate as possible.

In certain cases, estimates are produced and included in the publication of current month data, and are subsequently replaced with actual data when they become available. The methodology and data sources for producing monthly estimates are reviewed regularly and updated when necessary.

Processing error may occur at various stages of processing such as data entry, editing and tabulation. Measures have been taken to minimize these errors. Several processes are in place to assess the accuracy and consistency of the data, including values, volumes and prices, at various stages of data processing. These processes are completed on a monthly basis and include review of the current month data as well as revisions to previous month data.


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