Canada posts first trade deficit in 35 years

Canada posted its worst trade performance in more than three decades last year as the global recession and a strong loonie hammered exports.

Canada posted its worst trade performance in more than three decades last year as the global recession and a strong loonie hammered exports.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the country’s merchandise trade deficit widened to $246 million in December, bringing the shortfall for 2009 to $4.8 billion.

That is the first annual trade deficit in the goods sector since 1975 and a total reversal of fortune from last year’s $47-billion surplus.

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel, say economists, noting that exports increased for the fourth straight month, by 1.7 per cent, in December.

The recent uptick means trade will modestly contribute to gross domestic product growth in the fourth quarter of 2009 after being a major drag throughout the year, economists said.

“We’re digging ourselves out of the hole, but it is a pretty big hole,” said economist Peter Buchanan of CIBC World Markets.

Despite the fall increase, exports remain 27.5 per cent down from their peak in July 2008.