When it comes to global trade, Canada and the United States are in a class of their own. In 2014, $50 billion in agri-food products crossed our borders. That’s more than $100 million per day. It is therefore crucial to Canadian producers and processors that our government nurture our trade relationship with the U.S.
In 2011, the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) was created to better align the two countries’ regulatory approaches, while protecting the health, safety and environment of the two nations. The RCC brings Canadian and U.S. regulators and stakeholders together to discuss co-operation and alignment opportunities, and enables discussion and planning for short, medium and long-term goals. For example, under the RCC, the U.S. and Canada agreed to harmonize the terminology for wholesale cuts of meat. This common understanding of terms benefits industry by reducing the costs of maintaining separate inventories with two sets of names and terms.
On March 10, measures were announced during Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit with President Obama that will improve regulatory co-operation and deepen the regulatory relationship between our two countries. These measures include forming a joint Canada-U.S. group of senior officials, who are tasked to generate and implement regulatory co-operation initiatives between the two countries on an ongoing basis. For the first time this will include senior officials of regulatory departments.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will be working with its counterparts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) in areas of plant health, animal health, meat inspection and certification and food safety.
The CFIA and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will continue advancing a perimeter approach to plant protection to prevent the unintentional introduction of invasive species to either country through the movement of plants and plant products. Also of great importance are the alignment of phytosanitary import requirements and the streamlining of the certification processes for plants and plant products moving between the borders of Canada and the U.S.
The CFIA and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service signed an arrangement where Canada and the U.S. recognize each other’s zoning measures during highly contagious foreign animal disease outbreaks. This arrangement proved critical in recent outbreaks of Avian Influenza where it was used to allow trade to continue from non-impacted areas. In order to expedite and simplify trade, regulators will also be working together to develop and implement their respective electronic certification and delivery systems, and collaborate on animal health requirements and assessments for the movement of animals and animal products.
The CFIA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are working together to update their slaughter and processed meat inspection policies and procedures. This will help enhance food safety, achieve closer alignment between inspection system requirements and eliminate duplication. Electronic certification processes will streamline the efficiency of the export and imports of meat while ensuring the safety of the food supply in both countries.
Food safety is another important area of collaboration. The CFIA, Health Canada and USFDA are finalizing an assessment of each other’s food safety systems (excluding meat, poultry and egg products which are under the USDA’s area of responsibility) and are establishing a food safety systems recognition arrangement based on the results. The exchange of food safety information will be increased to help both countries make informed risk-based regulatory decisions. As the FDA and the CFIA implement their modernized food safety rules and regulations, they will also work together to ensure that their systems deliver comparable public health outcomes and again, reduce unnecessary duplication.
The RCC was designed not only to strengthen working relations and co-operation between Canada and the U.S., but also to foster new channels for industry consultations and input. Canadian companies interested in participating in industry consultations should contact Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Market Access Secretariat at [email protected]
Dr. R.J. (Ron) Wasik PhD, MBA, CFS, is president of RJW Consulting Canada Ltd. Contact him at [email protected]