BC Exports in 2016: Five Points of Interest

March 21, 2017
Ken Peacock

BC is a small, open, trade dependent economy. As such, exports play a big role in underpinning prosperity and stimulating growth. When exports rise, BC’s economy generally strengthens. Given the dominant role that natural resources have in BC’s overall export profile, exports are also the backbone of many smaller communities around the province.

  1. BC’s merchandise exports climbed to a record high in 2016. For nearly 15 years the value of merchandise exports cycled around the $30 billion mark and never exceeded $35 billion. In 2014 and 2015, BC’s merchandise exports just surpassed $35 billion. However, last year exports moved solidly into record territory, surging to nearly $40 billion.
  2. The US again accounts for more than half of BC’s merchandise exports. With a steep drop in the value of exports shipped to the US between 2006 and 2010, by 2011 the share of BC’s exports sold to the US had fallen to 46%. In 2012 the share fell further to 43%. However, on the back of several years of solid gains, by 2016 the proportion of BC exports shipped south of the border had risen back to 54%.
  3. Four categories of exports hit record highs in 2016. Among a dozen or so broad product export categories, four reached record highs last years. Machinery and equipment exports have grown steadily since 2010, and supported by the weaker Canadian dollar, registered a sizable jump in 2015. In 2016 the value of M&E exports just eclipsed 2015’s level. Metallic mineral products (which includes copper, molybdenum, zinc and aluminium) also reached a new high in 2016. In this category, the ramping up of production at Rio Tinto’s new smelter in Kitimat resulted in a record for aluminium exports, which pushed the broader metallic minerals category to a new record. The value of BC’s agriculture and food exports has increased steadily over the past two decades, with another advance last year. Meanwhile, the value of fish product exports reached a new high in 2015 and then crept up further in 2016.
  4. India is now BC’s fifth largest export market. Since 2009, BC’s exports to India have surged from $77 million to $806 million in 2016. In 2014, India eclipsed Taiwan to take fifth spot in the international rankings of BC’s export markets. India now buys 2% of all BC’s international merchandise exports.
  5. Resources continue to dominate BC’s merchandise export profile. Last year wood products alone accounted for fully 25% of BC merchandise exports, and pulp and paper for another 10% slice, meaning the forest sector as a whole generated 35% of BC’s export receipts. Energy products (which includes coal) made up another 20% of the province’s exports. Metallic mineral products represented just over 12% of exports. Altogether, resources (including agriculture and fish products) made up fully 77.6% of BC’s international merchandise exports last year. A decade earlier, in 2006, the proportion was nearly identical at 77.7%. While BC’s economy has diversified, this is less true of the province’s merchandise exports, which remain heavily weighted toward natural resource industries.

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