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Calgary posted highest net exports, Toronto highest net imports

Christian Fernsby |
In 2018, the five major census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in terms of trade Toronto, Calgary, Montréal, Vancouver and Windsor contributed to nearly 60% of Canada's total international merchandise trade.

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Calgary posted the highest net exports, while Toronto had the highest net imports

Overall, Canada's 35 CMAs accounted for 75% of total merchandise exports and for more than 90% of total imports in 2018.

Out of all the exporting (50,247) and importing (168,028) establishments, more than three-quarters were located in CMAs in 2018, and their numbers have been relatively stable since 2010. An establishment is a statistical unit that represents the location of an exporter or importer.

BOLD! The Toronto census metropolitan area contributes heavily to Canada's imports

In 2018, the Toronto CMA (Toronto) represented more than 40% of Canada's total import value, and 17.2% of the total export value, the largest shares among all CMAs in the country.

The value of exports from Toronto establishments rose 54.4% from 2010 to 2018, reaching $89.9 billion in 2018. This growth was faster than that of all other CMAs combined (+36.1%). Over three-quarters of exporting establishments in Toronto exported goods to the United States.

The manufacturing sector contributed the most to exports from Toronto establishments, with exports totalling $75.8 billion in 2018. Unwrought gold, mainly sold to the United Kingdom, and motor vehicles, mostly sold to the United States, were the main products exported.

Similar to export value, the value of imports by Toronto establishments grew by 53.9% from 2010 to 2018 to reach $236.7 billion. Imports of vehicles and mobile telephones contributed the most to this growth. Establishments with fewer than 500 employees were responsible for the bulk of the imports.

The marked increase in international trade in Toronto coincided with strong growth in its population. Among all CMAs in Canada, Toronto posted the largest population increase (+660,809) from 2010 to 2018.

BOLD! The Calgary census metropolitan area posts the highest net exports, led mainly by the energy sector

In 2018, exports from the Calgary CMA (Calgary) reached $88.6 billion, while imports amounted to $28.3 billion. As a result, its net export value stood at $60.3 billion, the highest level among all CMAs in Canada.

The mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector represented 65% of Calgary's export value in 2018, up from 49% in 2010. This increase was primarily led by exports of crude petroleum to the United States and by establishments with fewer than 500 employees.

Despite the increased value of exports, the number of establishments exporting and importing energy products declined by 7.4% from 2010 to 2018.

Conversely, the number of establishments trading non-energy products rose by 4.1% from 2010 to 2018. These establishments were operating in various industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, construction, and professional, scientific and technical services.

BOLD! Manufacturing and wholesale trade foster international trade in major census metropolitan areas

Overall, the manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors contributed the most to international merchandise trade in major CMAs in the country in 2018. Calgary was the exception, with its mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector generating the bulk of the international trade.

In the Montréal CMA, wholesale trade represented 44% of imports in 2018. Meanwhile, manufacturing was responsible for over three-quarters of exports, led by the transportation equipment manufacturing and the primary metal manufacturing subsectors.

In the Vancouver CMA, wholesale trade accounted for more than 40% of exports and nearly half of imports in 2018. The farm product merchant wholesaler subsector posted the highest value of exports, led by products exported to China and Japan.

Meanwhile, the building material and supplies merchant wholesalers subsector posted the strongest imports.

In the Windsor CMA, the manufacturing sector—particularly transportation equipment manufacturing—accounted for nearly all exports and over 60% of imports, in terms of value. This trade activity occurred mainly with one partner country, the United States.

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