Canada and its trading partners

Overview

This lesson is designed to help students identify the relationship between Canada and its trading partners. Students use two data sources, Summary tables and E-STAT, on the Statistics Canada website to explore the growing importance of trade in general, and trade with the United States in particular. Students will examine the seasonal variations in imports and exports using E-STAT. Finally, they will investigate how the United States affects Canada through other interactions such as the media, immigration, culture, etc.

Contributors: Lorna McLean, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa. Joel Yan, Learning resources Team, Statistics Canada.


Objectives


Suggested grade levels and subject areas

Elementary
History and Social Studies

Intermediate
Social Studies, Canadian Studies and Geography

Secondary
World Issues, Canadian Studies and Business Studies

Duration

Two or three class periods of 75 minutes.


Vocabulary

Imports — goods or services brought into a country from another country.
Exports — goods or services sent out from a country to another country.
Balance of trade — the difference between the value of the goods and services that a country exports and the value of the goods and services that it imports.
Trade surplus — when a country's exports exceed its imports.
Trade deficit — when a country's imports exceed its exports.
Balance of payments — a statistical statement of a country's credit and debit transactions with other countries. It includes transactions covering goods and services and capital transactions such as capital transfers. Because so much economic activity now involves capital (i.e., financial or monetary) transactions, a country's balance of payments provides a more complete picture of its international transactions than balance of trade does.


Materials


Classroom instruction

  1. Introduce the concept of imports to Canada by
    1. having students identify which items in their lunch are imported, or
    2. having students identify which items of clothing they are wearing are imported by looking at the labels.
    Ask the students to locate on a map, using pins or stickers such as small happy faces, the countries from which the food or clothing items are imported.
    Summarize and discuss the results.
  2. Introduce Statistics Canada as the major source of current statistics on Canada, its people and economy. Explain how Statistics Canada collects information through many ongoing surveys as well as the census and administrative data sources such as customs declarations. Importers, exporters, or their agents are responsible for properly completing forms by declaring, among other things, the destination, the value of the merchandise, and the method of transportation used. These forms are compiled by Statistics Canada to produce trade data.
  3. Using overheads or a computer, describe or demonstrate the Statistics Canada website and its Summary tables module as the main location for up-to-date statistical tables.
  4. Distribute Student worksheet 1, which introduces trade data and shows that the United States is our major trading partner. When students get to part C, ask them to complete column A before they look at the tables. If students are working in a computer lab, help them locate the data. If not in a lab, distribute printouts of the relevant trade and export tables from Summary tables. Then have students complete the worksheet.
    Recommended tables for this activity:
    Imports, exports and trade balance of goods on a balance-of-payments basis, by country or country grouping
    Exports of goods on a balance-of-payments basis, by product
  5. For secondary students only, distribute Student worksheet 2, which shows some of the other connections we have with the United States and our other trading partners. If students are working in a computer lab, help them locate the data. If not in a lab, distribute printouts of the relevant tables (listed below) from Summary tables. Then have students complete the worksheet.
    Recommended tables for this activity:
    Immigrant population by place of birth, by province and territory (2006 Census)
    Travel by Canadians to foreign countries, top 15 countries visited
  6. Introduce E-STAT as an enormous warehouse of reliable and timely statistics about Canada and its ever-changing people. E-STAT can be used to bring data to life in colourful graphs, charts and maps. Using overheads or a computer, describe or demonstrate the features and wide array of data available with E-STAT.
  7. Distribute Student worksheet 3, which introduces the use of E-STAT for retrieving and graphing detailed trade data by commodity and by country. When students get to part B, step 2, ask them to complete columns A and B before they look at the tables. If students are working in a computer lab, help them locate the data. If not in a lab, distribute printouts of the relevant tables and graphs from E-STAT. Then have students complete the worksheet.

Evaluation

Based on teacher observation, individual and group discussions and answers on their worksheets, students demonstrate that they can analyse, classify and interpret the information.


Enrichment

Have students use E-STAT to

Search The Daily at Statistics Canada's website for trade data releases to write a brief report on current trends in Canada's trading patterns (for secondary students). The Daily is Statistics Canada's official release bulletin and its first line of communication with the media and the public. The Daily issues news releases on the current social and economic conditions and announces new products. It provides a comprehensive one-stop overview of new information available from Statistics Canada. The Daily is released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time and is posted on the Internet each working day with the exception of data from the Labour Force Survey and the Consumer Price Index available at 7 a.m.

Ask students to use Industry Canada's site at http://www.ic.gc.ca to examine recent patterns in Canadian trade by industry and by country.

Then have students examine other websites, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca).

Ask students to search all their available data sources to find data on Canada's trade in services. What are Canada's main areas of trade in services? What share is trade in services of Canada's total trade? How has this share changed over time?