Despite keeping its borders open for goods shipments during the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian trade fell in March while its trade deficit widened to Can$1.4 billion (US$1 billion), according to data released Tuesday.
The figure, up from a Can$894 million deficit in February, beat analyst forecasts. Year over year, trade fell 10 percent.
But with a full month of physical distancing policies in place in April, trade values are expected to “decrease more severely” in that month, warned Statistics Canada.
Total exports fell 4.7 percent to Can$46.3 billion in March while imports declined 3.5 percent to Can$47.7 billion, the government agency said.
Automakers and several auto engine and parts suppliers in North America notably began to cease production or shifted production to medical masks and ventilators, with the introduction of physical distancing measures.
This had “a significant impact” on trade, according to Statistics Canada.
Energy imports and exports were also down in the month, reflecting weaker global demand for oil, with the collapse in oil prices likely to be felt “more severely in future months,” it said.
The double drop in car and oil sales resulted in “a sharp decline in trade” with the United States, while Canada’s trade surplus with its largest trading partner narrowed slightly from Can$4.0 billion in February to Can$3.9 billion in March.
The month also saw lower exports of aircraft, but higher exports of farm, fishing and intermediate food products, with the end of rail blockades by indigenous rights activists allowing a grain backlog to be cleared.