Canada and the United States have moved closer to taking steps
to streamline the regulatory regimes which apply to a number of
industries, including the food and agricultural industries. On
December 7, 2011 President Obama and Prime Minister Steven Harper
agreed to implement the Action Plan on Regulatory Cooperation (the
"Plan"). The Plan will be the responsibility of the
Regulatory Cooperation Council (the "RCC").
For years, businesses in both countries have been lobbying for
an end to the distinct regulatory regimes on both sides of the
border, which they say impede cross-border trade, now standing at
approximately $500 billion per year.
The Plan recognizes that each country has its own independent
regulatory scheme, which has resulted in a duplication of efforts
for both governments and businesses. The RCC maintains that each
country will continue to have its own sovereign regulatory regime;
however, the objective of the plan is to achieve regulatory
The Plan proposes a number of initiatives to align regulation of
food and agricultural products:
Inspection, Testing and Certification of Food
The Plan acknowledges that while each country independently
administers its regulations, and while there can be differences in
approach, efforts should be focused on regulatory alignment
wherever possible, recognizing common health and safety outcomes.
The Plan proposes to:
develop of common approaches to food safety systems in order to
align efforts and minimize the need for each country to conduct
inspection activities in the other country.
streamline requirements, and where possible, reduce duplicative
regulatory activities under Canada and US meat and poultry
ensure food safety testing in one country is acceptable to
regulators in both countries and facilitate cross-border use of
laboratory results; and
streamline export certification for meat and poultry, and
simply and reduce, where possible, import and administrative
Marketing of Meat
The Plan recognizes that the different meat cut nomenclature
systems create confusion for consumers. For instance, terms such as
"peameal bacon", "chicken tenderloin", and
"flatiron steak" are used in the U.S. but are not
permitted under Canadian regulations. Businesses incur marketing
and certification costs to comply with the different regulations in
each country. The Plan envisions the creation of a common meat cut
nomenclature system to reduce such costs.
The Plan proposes further alignment of the regulation of
agricultural products such as crop protection products and
veterinary drugs . Specifically, the aim is to align the
establishment and approvals of pesticide tolerances in the two
countries by creating an environment to allow for the simultaneous
submission and joint review of pesticide applications, in order to
facilitate equal access to crop production products, and minimize
differences in maximum pesticide residue limits and tolerances.
Another goal is to align marketing applications for the review
processes for veterinary drugs.
The Plan will develop joint audit plans by December 2012 to
pilot evaluation of foreign food inspection systems. The results of
the pilot project will establish plans for future joint audits.
The Plan will also develop assessment processes and site visits
with respect to animal and plant commodities from foreign
countries. A mechanism will be developed to share the results of
the assessment between both countries.
The announcement of the Plan and the creation of the RCC are
definitely positive developments for the food and agricultural
industries. Elimination of some of the red tape that manufacturers
and importers now face is long overdue. The regulatory alignments
that have been proposed should reduce costs, facilitate cross-
border trade and provide greater certainty on both sides of the
border. However, as with other such good initiatives, "the
devil is in the detail", and therefore what will be most
interesting to see is what specific regulatory changes lay
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