International trade gets a lot of attention–and rightly so. Alberta’s international exports and imports added up to $181 billion in 2016. But our domestic trade is also significant with $129 billion worth of goods and services exchanged between Alberta and other parts of Canada in 2016 (Statistics Canada, CANSIM table 384-0038).
Alberta is, moreover, a good customer–buying $4 billion more goods and services from other parts of Canada than they sold to us.
British Columbia’s exports to Alberta, for example, add up to 44 per cent of its total trade with the rest of Canada while Alberta’s exports to BC represent 23 per cent of our trade with the rest of the country. (Statistics Canada, CANSIM table 386-0003 - Note that the most recent statistics on the trade between specific provinces are for 2014).
Our largest trading partner is Ontario. Albertans purchased $35 billion worth of goods and services from Ontarians in 2014 and sold them $27 billion worth in return.
Not surprisingly, Alberta’s main interprovincial exports are “mineral fuels” (a.k.a. oil, natural gas and coal and refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and asphalt. These products account for over a third of our domestic exports. Ontario is the destination of about half of Alberta’s mineral fuel/petroleum product exports followed by British Columbia (17 per cent) and Saskatchewan (15 per cent).
Finance and insurance services such as investment services, life insurance and auto insurance is the single largest category of imports into Alberta from the rest of the country (12 per cent of our total interprovincial imports) followed by wholesale services (11 per cent), professional services (eight per cent) and transportation services (also eight per cent).
A fair amount of food also goes back and forth. Albertans sold $5.4 billion worth of food and non-alcoholic beverages to other Canadians and purchased $5.6 billion in return.
Why does this matter? It’s important to remember that we not only buy and sell from other countries but other Canadians as well and the benefits of free trade apply within Canada as well as on the international stage. We should, in turn, be working to keep this trade as open and efficient as possible. It’s also a good reminder for our friends in the rest of the country that Alberta is a good customer as well as a key supplier of critical products and services.
This post is written by guest writer Rob Roach, ATB Financial's Director of Insight.