Canada's merchandise imports and exports both declined in March, largely due to volume reductions, according to data released Tuesday by Statistics Canada.

Imports decreased more than twice as fast as exports, leading to the widening of Canada's trade surplus with the world from $262 million in February to $1.1 billion in March.

Imports fell 4.4% to $31.4 billion as most sectors posted decreases. Energy products registered the largest decline, followed by machinery and equipment, as well as industrial goods and materials. Since the peak of July 2008, imports have fallen by more than $8.0 billion, mainly as a result of declines in the energy products and automotive products sectors.

Exports were down 1.8% to $32.5 billion, largely reflecting a decline in exports to the United States. Increased exports to the European Union moderated the decline. Overall exports have fallen by $11.8 billion since reaching their highest level in July 2008, primarily as a result of lower exports of energy products in the latter part of 2008.

Canada's trade surplus with the United States remained at $3.6 billion in March, virtually unchanged from February. Exports to the United States decreased 4.1% while imports declined 4.7%.

Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States narrowed to $2.5 billion in March from $3.3 billion in February, as exports increased 4.5% while imports decreased 3.9%.

While both imports and exports posted gains in February and fell in March, the pace of decline in March was considerably slower than those observed at the end of 2008 and in January 2009.

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