Purchase of three icebreakers turns Canada’s August trade surplus into a deficit

OTTAWA — The summertime purchase of three ships from Sweden has wiped out Canada’s healthy trade surplus for August and replaced it with a deficit, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The agency made the revision to the August trade figures as it accounted for a $600-million acquisition of three icebreakers late in the month.

The $526-million trade surplus initially reported for August now shows a $551-million deficit. The change represents a swing in the trade balance of more than $1 billion.

Behind the August revision was a $981-million increase in Canada’s imports.

“Most of this revision was due to the import of three high value ships, which were reported after the publication of August data,” the agency said of the transaction, which on its own added $598 million to the monthly import number.

“Three icebreakers were imported from Sweden at the end of August.”

Statistics Canada says smaller revisions to the monthly numbers are common because purchases sometimes come in after the publication of the data. The agency also made upward revisions in August in other categories, including about $100 million for crude oil imports and $100 million for imports of aircraft-related goods.

Last month, the Canadian Coast Guard said three interim icebreakers had been purchased for use over the next 15 to 20 years. The government agreed to buy three used icebreakers from Quebec-based Davie Shipbuilding for $610 million.

On average, the existing coast guard ships are more than 35 years old and have lost hundreds of operational days over the past few years due to mechanical breakdowns.

Statistics Canada also released its latest merchandise trade numbers that showed the country’s trade deficit with the world narrowed to $416 million in September as imports fell 0.4 per cent and exports dipped 0.2 per cent.

The report said Canadian trade with countries other than the United States declined as imports dropped 3.3 per cent and exports slid 1.8 per cent. Its trade deficit with these countries decreased to $5.2 billion to from $5.6 billion in August.

Canada’s trade surplus with the U.S., by far its biggest trading partner, narrowed in September to $4.8 billion, from $5 billion. Imports into Canada from the U.S. increased 1.2 per cent, while exports south of the border rose 0.4 per cent.

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