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Trade you for it: Alberta’s exports

Trade you for it: Alberta’s exports

Posted on: 5/9/2019 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team


There’s no question Alberta’s economy relies on trade, both within Canada and with other countries. There is simply no way we can eat all the wheat we grow or use all the oil we extract. Having billions of potential customers is better than limiting ourselves to the less than 4.5 million people who call Alberta home.

What might be less clear is how important exports are to our economic growth. Taking inflation out of the equation, Alberta’s exports to other countries have grown by 586 per cent over the last three and a half decades. In 1981, we exported about $18.2 billion of goods and services to other countries. By 2017, this figure had increased to $125.3 billion.

Exports to the rest of Canada have also grown, though more modestly. In 1981, Alberta’s interprovincial exports totalled $32.1 billion compared to $69.5 billion in 2017, for a jump of 116 per cent.

As a portion of real GDP, foreign exports went from 15 per cent in 1981 to 37 per cent in 2017. Interprovincial exports as a percentage of GDP lost some ground but remain significant, going from 26 per cent of real GDP to 21 per cent over the same period.

Rising exports helped fuel Alberta’s population growth but also outpaced it. In per capita terms, real international and interprovincial exports went from $21,984 per Albertan in 1981 to $45,890 in 2017 for an increase of 109 per cent.

These numbers are important to keep in mind when we hear about trade disputes and other barriers to the movement of goods and services.


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