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Canada still outpacing China in trade with the U.S., but only barely

Shipping containers at the Port of Vancouver. China is set to overtake Canada as the biggest trading partner with the U.S.

OTTAWA — Yes, there’s an unstoppable chain of Chinese freighters headed toward the U.S. coastline. And U.S. goods are just as speedily going in the other direction.

But don’t count Canada out of the race for trade just yet — even if it could be losing the most cherished trader status with the United States, the world’s biggest economy.

Add up the latest data, however, and China — the No. 2 global engine — does appear set to overtake us, maybe not this year but likely in 2016.

Blame the collapse of oil prices, the weak Canadian dollar and a still-hurting manufacturing sector for our slide from the top.

According to Commerce Department data, trade in goods between the U.S. and China was worth US$441.6 billion in the first nine months of 2014, while Canada and its neighbour mustered US$438 billion.

But that’s not the full story, yet.

“I wouldn’t say by any stretch that China has surpassed Canada in terms of importance of relationships or economic-trade relationships,” said Stuart Bergman, deputy chief economist at Export Development Canada, the federal credit and financing agency.

EDC has crunched the numbers — including trade data on services, not just goods — as of the third quarter of this year. The total of trade in both sectors between the U.S. and Canada amounts to US$948.9 billion, compared with US$942.6 billion between the U.S. and China, according to the EDC.

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