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Doug McCann Research and Statistics Officer
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January 02, 2018



The trade data in the economic accounts represent provincial total and net expenditures in interprovincial (intP) and international (intN) markets. As there are important differences in the characteristics of intN and intP markets, it is useful to provide a separate analysis. In this note, the focus is on international (intN) trade.

Several components of intN trade are considered separately and in combination. These include exports, imports, goods, services, total and net trade. Net trade is particularly important as it represents deferred expenditures, either in the form of domestic savings (surplus) or domestic borrowing (deficit). (See Total and Net Trade: published separately)

Total international trade is the sum of intN imports and exports, goods and services. It is the measure of total intN trade activity external to the provincial domestic market and interprovincial markets.

Total intN trade is comprised of four components. In 2016, in order by value, they are: intN goods-imports ($11.481 billion), intN goods-exports (5.413 billion); intN services-imports ($1.845 billion); and intN services-exports ($1.645 billion). Summed, they total $20.384 billion.

By commodity category: goods ($16.9 billion) dominate services ($3.5 billion). Over 84% of total international trade value is in the import and export of goods, and the remaining 16% is import/export of services.

By market, imports ($13.3 billion = 65.4%) dominate exports ($7.058 billion = 34.6%). As a result, Nova Scotia international trade typically posts a deficit.




In 2016, Nova Scotia nominal GDP increased 2.8% over 2015 and increased 19.4% (CAGR=2.6%) over 2009, to $41.7 billion.

In contrast, the value of Nova Scotia total intN trade in 2016 increased 2.5% over 2015, and increased 19.2% (CAGR=2.5%) over 2009, to $20.4 billion. While total intN trade experienced a sharp 10.9% decline coincident with the recession in 2009, over the 2009-2016 period, GDP annual growth out performed total intN trade growth. 

In 2016, total intN exports increased 2.2% over 2015 and increased 10.7% (CAGR=1.5%) over 2009. Meanwhile, total intN imports increased 2.7% over 2015 and increased 24.2% (CAGR= 3.1%) over 2009. Imports out performed exports and GDP over the period.

In 2016, total intN goods increased 1.9% over 2015 and increased 15.3% (CAGR= 2.1%) over 2009. Meanwhile, total intN services increased 5.8% over 2015 and increased 42.2% (CAGR= 5.2%) over 2009. Services trade out performed Goods trade and GDP over the period.



The trade openness index is a measure of the relative increase in trade growth to GDP growth. The total international trade openness index provides evidence to the expansion or contraction of the various international trade sectors. 

In the illustration, one can see that total intN services imports increased by 32.4 points on the trade openness index from 2009 to 2016, and total intN services exports increased 7.0  points over the same period. Total goods imports and total intN goods exports started off well increasing by 12.3 points and 7.1 points respectively to 2011, then both went into decline. Total intN goods imports increased between 2009 and 2016 by 0.6 points and total goods exports declined 10.9 points over the same period.

Services export  trade,  services import trade,  and goods import trade expanded over the 2009-2016 period while goods export  trade contracted. Over the period, total international openness trade index decreased 0.2 points -- intN trade has not fully recovered from the recession.



 Computed from Statistics Canada CANSIM table 384-0038