Canada's trade surplus narrowed to $254 million in March as imports outpaced exports.

A month earlier, the surplus was $1.2 billion, Statistics Canada said Wednesday. Falling demand for energy products pushed exports down 0.7 per cent, while increased demand for precious metals pushed imports two per cent higher.

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Chinese-bound containers gather for export last year. Canada's trade balance with countries other than the United States widened to $3.6 billion in February. ((Eugene Hoshiko/File/Associated Press))

The drop in exports halted six months of gains. They were worth $33.5 billion in March, down from $33.8 billion in February. Energy products made up most of the decline, with prices dropping by 6.9 per cent. Excluding energy, exports increased 1.3 per cent.

Imports grew from $32.6 billion in February to $33.3 billion in March, the highest point since December 2008 and the fourth gain in five months.

Exports and imports to the United States both fell in March, by 2.5 and 0.6 per cent, respectively. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States narrowed to $3.8 billion in March from $4.3 billion in February, the data agency said.

Exports to countries other than the United States grew 4.2 per cent, while imports were 6.5 per cent higher. Trade with Europe was the main story there, as imports from the EU were up a substantial 19 per cent.

Canada's trade deficit with countries other than the United States widened to $3.6 billion in March from $3.2 billion in February.