TRADE Analyser: Canadian International Merchandise Trade (CIMT) Database

About this dataset

Dataset description
Current subscribers

Latest edition: 1988 - 2014

Canadian Imports Data
Canadian Exports Data

Documentation & Help


Reclaiming files

Reclaim a previously built file

Related links

TRADE Analyser: World Trade Database

Canadian International Merchandise Trade (CIMT) Documentation


Customs-basis data versus balance-of-payments basis data

Merchandise trade statistics are produced on both a customs basis (raw and seasonally adjusted) and a balance of payment basis (seasonally adjusted).

Customs-based trade data are derived from the administrative records of the Canada Border Services Agency and the United States Customs Border Protection. Balance of payments trade statistics adjust customs-based information to conform to the concepts and definitions of the System of National Accounts.

The principal difference between the two trade concepts is that customs-based merchandise trade statistics cover the physical movement of goods, while balance-of-payments-adjusted data are intended to cover all economic transactions between residents and non-residents that involve merchandise trade.

Canada's merchandise export and import data are inputs into the System of National Accounts, particularly related to balance of payments and gross domestic product, and are used in the formation of trade and budgetary policies.

Data in the CIMT database are produced on a customs basis.

Free on board

The value of goods measured on a free on board (FOB) basis includes all production and other costs incurred up until the moment that goods are placed on board an international carrier for export. FOB values exclude international insurance and transport costs.

Non-merchandise trade

Goods that cross the customs frontier, but do not alter Canada's stock of material resources.


The quantity associated with a commodity is determined based on the unit of measure used to declare the goods. Units of measure are alphabetic abbreviations represented by three characters, which were developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The number of units refers to complete (or substantially complete) units exported or imported, excluding parts. Weight and volume measures generally exclude packaging used for shipment.

MTQCubic metre
DPRDozen pairs
KSDKilogram air dry
KNSKilogram named substance
LPALitres of pure alcohol
MWHMegawatt hour
TNEMetric tonne
TSDMetric tonne air dry
CMKSquare centimetre
MTKSquare metre
TMQ1000 cubic metre

Unit of measure

The metric unit of measure used to indicate the quantity of goods imported or exported.

Export concepts

Country of final destination

Export statistics are attributed to the country that is the last known destination of the goods at the time of export. Exports to the United States are attributed to the state of destination.

Domestic exports

Include goods grown, produced, extracted or manufactured in Canada, including goods of foreign origin that have been materially transformed in Canada.


Produced or manufactured Canadian goods that are subtracted from the stock of material resources in Canada, as a result of their movement out of the country.

Export valuation

Export data to all countries are measured in Canadian dollars.

Exports to countries other than the United States are recorded at the values declared on export documents. These values usually reflect an item’s transaction value, i.e., the actual selling price used for company accounting purposes. Canadian exports to overseas countries are valued at FOB, port of exit, including domestic freight charges to that point but excluding discounts and allowances.

Data on exports to the United States are collected by the United States as import data from Canada, converted to Canadian dollars using an average monthly rate provided by the Bank of Canada, and sent to Canada for dissemination as Canadian exports.

Province of origin

Province (or territory) where the goods are grown, extracted or manufactured. This may not always be the province where the goods were cleared at customs.

In the case of re-exports, province of origin is the one from which the goods were shipped.


Goods, materials or articles originally imported into Canada that are exported, either in the same condition in which they were imported or after some minor operations (e.g., blending, packaging, bottling, cleaning or sorting) that leave them essentially unchanged.

State of destination

Canadian exports to the United States are attributed to the state of destination.


All goods leaving the country (through customs) for a foreign destination. Total exports are the sum of domestic exports and re-exports.

Import concepts

Country of export

The country from which the goods were exported into Canada. For U.S. goods, state of origin is used for statistical purposes. In most—but not all—cases, the country of exit is the same as the country of origin.

Country of origin

For imports and import clearances, the country of origin is the country of production or the country in which the final stage of production or manufacture occurs. For U.S. goods, state of origin is used for statistical purposes.


Goods that have entered the country by crossing territorial (customs) boundaries, whether for immediate domestic consumption (following the payment of any duty) or for storage in customs (bonded) warehouses. Duty is not paid at that time.

Re-imports are included in Canadian trade data. These are goods, materials or articles that are imported in either the same condition in which they were exported or after undergoing repair or minor alterations (e.g., blending, packaging, bottling, cleaning or sorting) that leave them essentially unchanged.

Domestic re-imports are goods of Canadian origin, whether grown, extracted, or manufactured in Canada that are exported to another country and then returned to Canada in 'the same state' as they were sent out. They are classified under HS 98.13 showing the country of origin as Canada.

Import valuation

Import data to all countries are collected in Canadian dollars.

Canadian imports are valued FOB place of direct shipment to Canada. The import valuation excludes costs of freight and insurance in bringing the goods to Canada from the point of direct shipment.  

Province of clearance

The Canadian province through which the goods arrived in Canada and where the goods were cleared at customs, either for immediate consumption or for entry into a bonded customs warehouse. This may not always be the province in which the goods are consumed.


Commodity classification

Harmonized System

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) is an international commodity classification system made up of 6 digits (HS-06). In Canada, the international 6-digit root was extended to 8 digits for exports and 10 digits for imports.

HS is used by more than 167 countries or economic unions to classify more than 95% of total world trade.

This table illustrates the coding structure for imports and exports at the HS-06 level.

Harmonized System


Heading metre

HS is based on a principle that goods are classified by what they are, not according to their stage of fabrication, use, made-in-Canada status, or other such criteria.

Economic activity or component material logically structures the HS nomenclature. For example, animals and animal products are found in one section; machinery and mechanical appliances that are grouped by function are found in another.

The nomenclature is divided into 21 sections, which generally group goods produced in the same sector of the economy. For example, Section IV, “Prepared Foodstuffs; Beverages, Spirits and Vinegar; Tobacco and Manufactured Tobacco Substitutes” (i.e., agricultural products) and Section VI, “Products of the Chemical or Allied Industries” (i.e., chemical products).

Each section is comprised of one or more chapters. The entire nomenclature is composed of 97 chapters. The chapters of sections I to XV (except Section XII) are grouped by biological genus (Section I, Chapters 1 to 5, Live animals, Animal products, Fish, Dairy products, etc.) or by the Component Material from which articles are wholly or mainly made (e.g. Section VIII contains Chapter 41 — Raw hides and skins; Chapters 42 — Articles of leather, etc.). In Sections I to XV (except Section XII), the groups of products formed according to their basic material are structured or divided in two ways:

  • Horizontal: For the groups of products formed according to their basic material, there is no apparent hierarchical order (e.g., Chapter 39 — “Plastics and articles thereof”; Chapter 44 — “Wood and articles of wood); i.e., there is no discernable reason that plastic should precede wood.
  • Vertical: For those chapters in which goods are grouped by raw material, there is a vertical structure in which articles are often classified according to their degree of processing. For example, Chapter 44 contains items such as rough wood, wood roughly squared and some wooden finished products such as wooden tableware, which are ordered in their degree of manufacture.

Articles may also be classified according to the use or function. This classification (i.e., by function) mainly occurs in Section XII and Sections XVI - XXI. For example, Section XVII contains:

  • Chapter 86, Railway locomotives, etc.
  • Chapter 87, Vehicles other than railway, etc.
  • Chapter 88, Aircraft, etc.
  • Chapter 89, Ships, etc.

The following example illustrates the hierarchical structure of HS code number.

  • 06 – Chapter:
    Live trees and other plants; bulbs, roots and the like; cut flowers and ornamental foliage;

    • 06.01 – Heading

      Bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, corms, crowns and rhizomes, dormant, in growth or in flower; chicory plants and roots other than roots of heading no. 12.12;

      •  0601.10 - Subheading

        Bulbs, tubers, tuberous roots, corms, crowns and rhizomes, dormant; 

The HS changes originate from the HS Committee, composed of representatives from all signatories to the HS convention. The committee meets regularly at the offices of the World Customs Organization in Brussels, Belgium. It is supported by a permanent secretariat. Proposals for HS changes are submitted to the committee through national representatives. Revisions to HS codes may happen every year and they usually comprise a minimal number of description changes, additions and deletions. Normally, for bigger revisions, three or four years elapse between the time a proposal is presented to the committee and the time it affects the collection of data, and thus the Standard Classification of Goods (SCG). The first set of changes affecting the HS component of the SCG came into effect on January 1, 1992, followed by revisions in 1996, 2002, 2007. Future changes will take effect in 2012.


History of codes or names changes

Provinces, countries, commodities, units of measure are considered metadata. They are very important for interpreting the retrieved data. The metadata is characterized by:

  • Code
    - an id used to identify unique the metadata
  • Unit of Measure Code if applicable
    - an id used to identify unique a unit of measure
  • Start Date
    - the date when the metadata item was first used
  • End Date
    - the date when some changes occurred: the code or the description changed. This value is 999999 (YYYYMM) if the metadata item is currently in use
  • Description
    - description

Example of metadata:
2014 Canadian International Merchandise Trade (CIMT) - Import / History of codes or names changes

COL0 - code-Code
COL1 - uomcode-Unit of Measure Code if applicable
COL2 - startdate-Start Date of Code
COL3 - enddate-End Date of Code
COL4 - desc_en-Description

COL0                COL1       COL2       COL3                                                  COL4

11                   n/a     196601     999912                                "Prince Edward Island"
24                   n/a     196601     999912                                              "Quebec"
35                   n/a     196601     999912                                             "Ontario"
"009CA"              n/a     196601     999912                                       "US-California"
"009CO"              n/a     196601     999912                                         "US-Colorado"
"009FL"              n/a     196601     999912                                          "US-Florida"
"009IN"              n/a     196601     999912                                          "US-Indiana"
5305210000         "KGM"     198801     200612                                    "Abaca fibre, raw"
8418619030         "NMB"     199601     199712   "Reciprocating liquid chilling refrigerating units"
8418619030         "NMB"     199001     199512                    "Absorption liquid chilling units"
8418619030         "NMB"     198801     198912                      "Refrigeration condensing units"
8418690010         "NMB"     199601     199712                    "Absorption liquid chilling units"
8418699010         "NMB"     199801     999912                    "Absorption liquid chilling units"
"KGM"                n/a     198801     999912                                 "Weight in kilograms"
"NMB"                n/a     198801     999912                                              "Number"

In the example above, the HS10 commodity code 8418619030 was updated 3 times and was in use from 1988 to 1997:
COL0                COL1       COL2       COL3                                                  COL4

8418619030         "NMB"     199601     199712   "Reciprocating liquid chilling refrigerating units"
8418619030         "NMB"     199001     199512                    "Absorption liquid chilling units"
8418619030         "NMB"     198801     198912                      "Refrigeration condensing units"


Information compiled from Statistics Canada website.