What Is Restraining Non-Energy Export Growth?

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This note summarizes the key findings from Bank of Canada staff analytical work examining the reasons for the recent weakness in Canadian non-energy exports. Canada steadily lost market share in US non-energy imports between 2002 and 2017, mostly reflecting continued and broad-based competitiveness losses. In addition to this evidence from the demand side, industry analysis points to supply constraints that are limiting export growth, such as physical capacity and shortages of skilled labour. Transportation bottlenecks, environmental and regulatory changes, and the inability to source raw materials also appear to be limiting export growth in some industries. Evidence suggests supply-side capacity constraints at the industry level as well. These constraints mainly reflect a decline in the factors of production, such as labour input and capital stock, which are likely related to the ongoing competitiveness losses. Simulations using the Bank of Canada’s ToTEM model suggest that demand factors such as competitiveness issues explain most of the recent weakness in non-commodity exports. The simulations also indicate that a monetary policy reaction is required, independent of whether the weakness is driven by demand or supply factors. Staff expect broad-based competitiveness losses and structural supply factors to continue to restrain the growth of non-energy exports over the projection horizon, which extends until 2020.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.34989/san-2018-25