Frequently asked questions

Here you will find answers to questions that are frequently asked by users of Trade Data Online. If after reading the frequently asked questions you require further assistance, please use Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's contact us feature.


What is the Harmonized System (HS)?

The Harmonized System (HS) is an international commodity classification developed under the auspices of the World Customs Organization, an independent intergovernmental body.

The HS is used by more than 200 countries and economies as a basis for their customs tariffs and for the collection of international trade statistics. Over 98 percent of the merchandise in international trade is classified in terms of the HS. Logical structure and is supported by well-defined rules to achieve uniform classification.

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What is the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is an industry classification system developed by the statistical agencies of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

NAICS is a comprehensive system encompassing all economic activities. It has a hierarchical structure:

  • at the highest level – it divides the economy into 20 sectors;
  • at lower levels – it further distinguishes the different economic activities in which businesses are engaged.
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What is the concordance between the NAICS and the HS?

Industry-based trade data is derived from product-based trade data.

In Trade Data Online, the term industry refers to a group of businesses that produce the same or similar products (and/or services). These groups are defined by the NAICS.

Trade data is only available for goods-producing industries.

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Can I find data on trade in services?

No, the numbers reported in Trade Data Online cover only merchandise trade clearing customs.

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Can I find export data by state for the United States?

No, you can get state export data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Can I find statistics relating to quantities of goods traded?

No statistics are available on this site with regards to the quantities of goods traded.

In the case of trade by industry, this is simply not possible because of the mix of units (e.g. numbers, kilograms, liters, square meters and so on).

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What is the province of clearance?

The province of clearance is the province or territory in which the goods were cleared by customs either for immediate consumption in Canada or for entry into a bonded customs warehouse. This may not always coincide with the province in which they are consumed.

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What is the province of origin?

The province of origin is the province or territory in which the goods were grown, extracted or manufactured. This may not always coincide with the province where the goods were cleared by customs.

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What is the country of origin?

The country or origin is the country in which the goods were grown, extracted or manufactured.

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What is the country of destination?

The country of destination is the country which is the last known destination of the goods at the time of export.

If the shipper does not know the country of ultimate destination, the shipment is credited to the last country to which the shipper knows that the merchandise will be shipped in the same form as when exported. As a result, statistics tend to be over counted for shipments to transshipment countries such as Hong Kong and the Netherlands and undercounted for other countries.

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What does trader mean?

The trader is the country that records imported goods coming in or exported goods leaving through customs.

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What does trading partner mean?

The trading partner is the country or a collection of countries with which the trader does international trade.

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What do total imports mean?

Total imports include all goods which have entered Canada or the United States by crossing the borders, whether for immediate domestic consumption or for storage in customs bonded warehouses.

In the case of Canada, re-imports are included. These are goods re-entering Canada after having been exported abroad without having been materially altered or substantially enhanced in value while abroad.

In the case of the United States, "general imports" are employed. These are goods entering U.S. foreign trade zones as well as those destined for bonded warehouses. The term "general imports" is used to distinguish them from "imports for consumption" which only reflect goods entering into the U.S. consumption channels.

Data users are cautioned that comparing Trade Data Online data with other government department data is not recommended as differences in classification, interpretation, data sources and methodology make these comparisons uncertain.

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What do total exports mean?

Total exports include all goods leaving the country through customs for a foreign destination. It consists of the sum of domestic exports and re-exports.

Total Exports = Domestic Exports + Re-exports

Data users are cautioned that comparing Trade Data Online data with other government department data is not recommended as differences in classification, interpretation, data sources and methodology make these comparisons uncertain.

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What do domestic exports mean?

Domestic exports consist of the exports of all goods grown, produced, extracted or manufactured in Canada or the United States leaving the country through customs for a foreign destination.

Exports of imported merchandise which has been substantially enhanced in value are also included.

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What do re-exports mean?

Re-exports “foreign exports in the U.S.” refer to the export of goods that have previously entered Canada or the United States and are leaving in the same condition as when first imported.

Exports of imported merchandise which has been minimally processed but not substantially enhanced in value are also counted as re-exports.

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What does trade balance mean?

The trade balance represents the difference between exports and imports of goods between the trader and one or more of its international trading partners.

Trade Balance = Total Exports – Total Imports

Trade deficit – The trade balance is negative if the trader imports more goods than it exports.

Trade surplus – The trade balance is positive if the trader exports more goods than it imports.

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How are data interchanged between Canada and the United States?

In accordance with a 1987 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries:

  • United States is substituting Canadian import statistics for U.S. exports to Canada;
  • Canada is substituting U.S. import statistics for Canada in lieu of its Canadian exports to the U.S.

Note: These substitutions are done to improve the quality of the information as customs-based trade statistics are more accurate at measuring imports than they are at measuring exports. This is the case because customs is typically more vigilant with respect to goods entering the country than they are with goods leaving the country.

In-transit goods passing through Canada or the United States but destined for a third country are not included in the data that is exchanged between the two countries.

The use of Canada's import data to produce U.S. export data requires some adjustments to make the two comparable.

U.S. exports are valued at the U.S. seaport, airport, or border port of export in the U.S. and include inland freight charges . Canadian imports are valued at the point of origin in the U.S. and do not include inland freight to the U.S. port of exit.

Data users are cautioned that comparison of U.S. exports with corresponding Canadian import data at detailed commodity levels is not recommended as corrections, differences in classification interpretation and in editing and processing environments make these comparisons uncertain.

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What is trade by industry?

Trade by industry is a recompilation of merchandise trade statistics (industry-based) compiled on a product basis. It reports the trade of all the products produced (manufactured, grown, extracted, etc.) by a specific industry (e.g. boat building industry).

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Can a business belong to several industries?

Few establishments which engage in both manufacturing and wholesaling activities may one year fall into “Manufacturing” and show up in "Wholesale" the next (depending on the share of revenues each activity brings). Accordingly, some of the manufactured products may from time to time be classified under a NAICS code in the "Wholesale" sector.

For technical reasons and simplicity, these items are not reported on an industry basis. The result is that if the numbers for all the individual good-producing industries are added, the total will not quite equal the results for "Total - All Industries". These exceptions account for the small difference.

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Are there associated trade industries beyond "NAICS 31-33”?

A very small amount of trade is associated with industries beyond "NAICS 31-33: Manufacturing" in the NAICS classification. An example is trade of human hair which is gathered from barbershops and hair stylists. Others include some artwork or cinematographic film associated with cultural industries.

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How is valuation determined for Canadian imports?

Canadian imports are valued FOB (free on board), place of direct shipment to Canada. Thus, the freight and insurance costs incurred in bringing the goods to Canada from the point of direct shipment are excluded.

Values are determined using GATT valuation principles, which, in general, reflect the transaction value or price paid between unrelated buyers and sellers. Import data from all countries are collected in Canadian dollars.

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How is the valuation determined for American imports?

U.S. imports reflect the value of imports as appraised by the U.S. Customs service.

This value is generally defined as the price actually paid or payable for merchandise when sold for exportation to the United States. Excluding U.S. import duties, freight, insurance and other charges incurred in bringing the goods to the U.S.

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How is the valuation determined for Canadian exports?

Canadian exports to the United States are collected by the U.S. as import data from Canada, converted to Canadian dollars using an average monthly rate provided by the Bank of Canada and sent to Statistics Canada for publication as Canadian exports. Adjustments may be performed to account for differences in the way freight, insurance and other charges are handled.

Canadian exports to countries other than the United States are recorded at the values declared on export documents which usually reflect the transaction value.

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How is the valuation determined for American exports?

U.S. exports are valued FAS (free alongside ship) at the port of export, based on the transaction price including inland freight, insurance and other charges incurred in placing the merchandise alongside the carrier at the U.S. port of exportation.

The value as defined excludes the cost of loading the goods aboard the exporting carrier and the freight, insurance, transportation costs and other charges applied beyond the port of exportation.

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Why are there some differences in the Arms Export Statistics between Trade Data Online and other government sources?

Arms export statistics

There are two different sets of statistics on arms exports published by the Government of Canada. The two sets of statistics are collected from different databases, are used for different purposes, and are not compatible.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) compiles and releases an annual "Report on the Exports of Military Goods from Canada", which provides statistics on the export of goods and technology identified on the “Munitions List” section of Canada’s Export Control List (ECL). Items on the “Munitions list” are used mostly by military and police forces for reasons of defence and security. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Statistics Canada collect information on all items exported from Canada, and classify these items using categories negotiated by the World Customs Organization (WCO). The WCO chapter on “Arms and ammunition” includes some items that appear on the “Munitions list.” However, it also includes items not on the “Munitions list” (for example, paintballs, ammunition used to frighten birds at airports, flare guns, and certain equipment for oil and gas exploration). CBSA and Statistics Canada information is made available on Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s website as “Trade Data Online” and on Statistics Canada’s website as the “Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database.”

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