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Top 5 Exports: Canada

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Crude oil, cars, gold, LPG, and coal top the list of Canada's biggest exports.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Canada's top export categories for 2011 were crude oil and petroleum products followed by vehicles/components and gold. Liquid petroleum gas and coal rounded out the list. Together the top five exports were valued at $178.7 billion, according to Statistics Canada, or StatsCan, which has been ranked in the past as the best statistical agency in the world by The Economist.

Crude Oil

Canada's largest export category is crude oil, valued at $87.1 billion/year, and includes all bituminous mineral and petroleum oils. At press time, a major oil deal was looming as the Canadian government is currently considering approving CNOOC Ltd.'s (CEO) $15.1 billion bid for the Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen (NXY). Coincidentally (or not), Chinese President Hu Jintao and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper chummed around over weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit held in Vladivostok, Russia. At the conference, the two politicians signed an agreement to "protect foreign investors in their respective countries," a move that suggests Canada is positioning itself to benefit as much as possible from China's thirst for Canadian oil.

(See China: Apple Stumbles in China; CNOOC Encounters Resistance in Purchase of Nexen for a detailed background on CNOOC's bid to enter the Canadian oil market.)

Canada's oil industry emerged alongside the oil industry in the United States in the mid-1800s, but it wasn't until the the 20th century that producers uncovered the enormous wealth of resources stored in Alberta's oil sands, where 95% of Canada's oil is now found. With 175.2 billion barrels in proven reserves, Canada holds the third largest supply of oil in the world, topped only by Venezuela (296.5 billion barrels) and Saudi Arabia (265.4 billion barrels).

In terms of production, today Canada is the world's sixth largest oil producer with an estimated 3.6 million barrels produced per day (bpd) in 2011. Canada exports 1.4 million bpd and nearly all of it goes to the the United States. Canada ranks as the thirteenth largest oil exporter in the world.

Proftis from the oil exports only benefit a minority of Canadian-headquartered companies. According to the latest information available, Canada's top three oil producers -- Imperial Oil (IMO), Husky Energy (HSE.TO), and Suncor Energy (SU) subsidiary Petro-Canada -- brought in record-breaking profits of a combined $10.72 billion.

This situation dates back even to 1973, which was a peak for Canadian oil production. At that time, about 90% of oil producers were owned by international firms, according to research compiled by Forest Ethics Advocacy, as reported by Mike de Souza at Postmedia News. Today, 71% of Canadian oil production is foreign-owned and includes ConocoPhillips (COP) and Shell (RDS-A).

In the past two years, oil sand exploration, gas and oil exports, and machinery and infrastructure investments have fueled one-third of Canada's economic growth. This summer, that growth was stifled by the high Canadian dollar, and cheaper products from Asian competitors. The cost of crude oil (CLV12.NYM) plays a pivotal role in the success of the Canadian economy.
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