Canada's external trade classified by Broad Economic Categories

Detailed information for 2020





Record number:


Canada's external trade classified by Broad Economic Categories of Revision 5 (BEC Rev. 5) provides Canada's merchandise imports and exports by broad economic categories and partner country on customs basis. The data published is based on the concordance of 2017 Harmonised System HS6 codes to BEC Rev. 5 codes.

Data release - February 2, 2021


The BEC classification provides users with a new perspective on Canada's imports and exports. A key feature of the BEC classification is an end-use aggregating structure that is consistent with the three basic classes of goods in the System of National Accounts (SNA), namely, intermediate consumption, gross fixed capital formation and final consumption goods. Imports and exports classified by Broad Economic Categories provide insight into the role of imports and exports as inputs into production, as a source of capital and as a source of goods for final consumption.
The fifth revision of BEC (BEC Rev.5) was endorsed for international use by the UN Statistical Commission at its forty-seventh session in March 2016. It is a hierarchical 6-digit classification; it includes services and is defined in terms of the 2012 Harmonized Commodity and Coding System (HS2012) for goods and the Central Product Classification (CPC) 2.1 for services.

BEC has received renewed interest due to the analysis of global value chains with research on trade in intermediate goods. In that regard, BEC Rev. 5 distinguishes generic and specified intermediate products as a new dimension within the processed intermediate end use category.

The new structure of the BEC Rev. 5 consists of 6 dimensions and has 8 new Broad Economic Categories as its first dimension.
I. New 6 dimensions of BEC Rev.5
1. Broad Economic Categories
a) Agriculture, forestry, fishing, food, beverages, tobacco
b) Mining, quarrying, refinery, fuels, chemicals, electricity, water, waste treatment
c) Construction, wood, glass, stone, basic metals, housing, electrical appliances, furniture
d) Textile, apparel, shoes
e) Transport equipment and services, travel, postal services
f) ICT, media, computers, business and financial services
g) Health, pharmaceuticals, education, cultural, sport
h) Government, military and other
The descriptions of the top-level economic categories of BEC Rev. 5 are derived from the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) categories and their corresponding basic product headings in HS for goods. ISIC reflects the economic structure of societies, and since the definition of economic activity in ISIC is based on the type of production carried out by economic units, where these units can be grouped to form industries. Those industries typically produce certain kinds of goods and services.

2. Product dimension : goods and Services
Goods are physical, produced objects for which a demand exists, over which ownership rights can be established and whose ownership can be transferred from one institutional unit to another by engaging in transactions on markets. They are in demand because they may be used to satisfy the needs or wants of households or the community or used to produce other goods or services. The production and exchange of goods are quite separate activities. Some goods may never be exchanged while others may be bought and sold numerous times. The production of a good can always be separated from its subsequent sale or resale.

Services are the result of a production activity that changes the conditions of the consuming units, or facilitates the exchange of products or financial assets. These types of service may be described as change effecting services and margin services respectively.

3. SNA end-use categories: intermediate consumption, gross fixed capital formation and final consumption
Consumption is an activity in which institutional units use up goods or services, but there are two quite different kinds of consumption. Intermediate consumption consists of goods and services used up in the course of production within the accounting period. Final consumption consists of goods and services used by individual households or the community to satisfy their individual or collective needs or wants. The activity of gross fixed capital formation, like intermediate consumption, is restricted to institutional units in their capacity as producers. Fixed assets are produced assets (such as machinery, equipment, buildings or other structures) that are used repeatedly or continuously in production over several accounting periods (more than one year). The distinction between intermediate consumption and gross capital formation depends on whether the goods and services involved are completely used up in the accounting period or not. If they are, the use of them is a current transaction recorded as intermediate consumption; if not, it is an accumulation transaction recorded in the capital account.

The break out of goods into these three categories is not always clear-cut. Bananas are certainly purchased by consumers, but a certain share of the total import of bananas may also be used as intermediate consumption in the food and restaurant industry. This duality of use naturally affects a number of product groups to varying degrees. Personal computers, for example, are sold to households and business as fixed capital investments but could also be recorded as intermediate consumption when incorporated into larger industrial and corporate IT systems that are thereafter sold to end users as final products. Indeed, it is because of these dual-use ambiguities (in particular those where the use is not disproportionately in one particular category), that earlier versions of BEC did not allocate end-use categories to passenger vehicles and motor spirits.

4. Processing dimension: primary versus processed goods for intermediate goods and final consumption
The definition of primary versus processed goods is as in previous revisions of BEC. In general, commodities have been classified as primary if they are characteristically products produced by primary sectors of the economy, that is, farming, forestry, fishing, hunting and the extractive industries. Commodities that are characteristically products of other sectors such as manufacturing, are classified as primary in cases where nearly all the value of the product is contributed by one of the primary sectors of the economy. If a commodity is not defined as primary, it is classified as processed.

5. Generic intermediate versus specified intermediate products and generic versus specified gross fixed capital formation
This distinction applies to processed goods, mostly to intermediate consumption, and, in a few cases, to processed goods for gross fixed capital formation. The specification dimension helps differentiate intermediates that are generic, i.e. consumed across a wide range of industries, from those that are specified, i.e. typically consumed only in certain industries. This is useful because global value chains most prominently involve international transactions with some level of explicit coordination rather than the arms-length transactions underpinning more "traditional" trade. Generic intermediates can be associated with homogenous goods which are traded on organised exchange and with referenced priced goods with published prices while specified intermediates are associated with differentiated goods. Examples of specified intermediates include most auto and aircraft parts and more highly integrated electronic components.

6. Durability dimension : durable versus non-durable goods for final consumption
By definition, there will be only durable goods in fixed capital formation and all intermediate consumption will reflect non-durables, which is why for these end-use categories there will be no need to differentiate between durable and non-durable.

Reference period: Year

Collection period: Calendar year


  • Economic accounts
  • International trade
  • Merchandise exports
  • Merchandise imports

Data sources and methodology

Target population

All Canadian merchandise imports and exports recompiled according to BEC Rev. 5. The coding system of BEC Rev. 5 is hierarchical and purely decimal. The basic categories of BEC are expressed as six-digit codes, where each digit indicates the category at that dimension. For example, 511210 stands for a product that belongs to the broad economic category of transport equipment and services, travel, postal services (51), is intermediate consumption (511), processed (5112) and generic (511210). Note that a zero is used to indicate the non-applicability of that dimension. Here all intermediate goods are non-durable. 513202 is a product that belongs to the same broad economic category, is final consumption, processed and durable.

Instrument design

This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.


This survey is a census.

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

Data sources

Data are extracted from administrative files and derived from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

Import data are collected via electronic transmission of Canada's Border Service Agency (CBSA) B3 forms to Statistics Canada on a weekly basis. When goods are imported into Canada, B3 forms must be submitted to the Canada's Border Services Agency (CBSA) and include the description and value of the merchandise, the country of origin, port of clearance, the mode of transport used, etc. The country of origin is the country where the goods are mined, grown, or manufactured or where the final stage of transformation takes place.

Data for exports to the United States are collected via electronic transmission of the United States Census Bureau data according to a 1987 Memorandum of understanding between Canada and the Unites States. 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. Exports to the Unites States account for three quarters 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.

Data for Canada's exports Non-U.S. destinations are compiled by Statistics Canada from B13A forms and G7 Electronic Data Interchange Export Reporting program received via the Canada's Border Services Agency and from Summary Reports and Canadian Automated Export Declarations (CAED) submitted directly to Statistics Canada.

Error detection

The program is based on a concordance of HS6 codes to BEC Rev. 5 codes. The history of HS6 codes and their association to BEC Rev.5 codes was validated through time.

Business rules were performed on both import and export HS6 to BEC Rev. 5 concordances. For example, where there are distribution factors, they must sum to one.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.


This methodology does not apply.

Quality evaluation

Totals of imports and exports by BEC Rev 5 codes for Canada and trading partner must match totals of imports and exports by HS and by North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) to verify consistency.

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.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

Since Canadian imports and exports by Broad Economic Categories is a recompilation by BEC codes of Canadian imports and exports by HS6, the data are submitted to the same revision policies and to the same seasonal adjustment.

Data accuracy

The statistical program is derived from a mapping of HS6 codes BEC Rev. 5 codes. Every effort is made to ensure that each HS in the concordance is assigned to the right BEC Rev. 5 code. The administrative data used to recompile imports and exports by BEC 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.

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