On February 4, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama announced the creation of a U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) to better align our regulatory approaches. The goal of regulatory cooperation is to remove unnecessary requirements and align standards. Such differences and duplications slow down trade and investment, limit timely access to products, and add costs to manufacturers and consumers. The RCC’s work will focus on addressing these, thus making it easier for Canadian and American firms to do business on both sides of the border.
The Importance of Regulatory Cooperation
Canada and the U.S. have a relationship characterized by highly integrated economies. It is estimated that the Canada-U.S. two-way trade in goods surpassed $500 billion in 2010, that over 70% of Canadian exports go to the U.S., and that exports to the U.S. account for one in seven jobs in our country.
Both Canada and the U.S. have highly successful, world class regulatory systems that have evolved independently at the same time as our economies have grown closer. This unique situation between Canada and the U.S. creates a significant opportunity for cooperation that will benefit both businesses and consumers. We can become more efficient and effective by streamlining and aligning standards and removing duplicative requirements such as independent approvals for the same products, re-inspections and requirements for unnecessary certification or verifications of products.
The Work of the Regulatory Cooperation Council
Canada and the United States tasked a group of senior officials from both sides of the border to look at ways to align regulations to ease the flow of goods across the border.
The work of the RCC is guided by the following principles:
- Canada and the U.S. each maintain its own sovereign regulatory system;
- Regulatory outcomes for consumer protection, health, safety, security and the environment will not be compromised;
- New regulatory systems be designed with the goal of achieving alignment, where feasible and appropriate;
- In addition to resolving existing unnecessary divergences, mechanisms to facilitate and secure future alignment would be developed;
- Transparency and early engagement between countries and with stakeholders underlie the efforts of the RCC; and
- We are pursuing opportunities that provide benefits to both Canada and the U.S.
The Joint Action Plan
The RCC consulted business groups and regulators in both countries. It asked Canadians and stakeholders on both sides of the border for their views. Based on these inputs, the RCC developed the Joint Action Plan as a starting point for a change in our regulatory relationship with the United States.
The Joint Action Plan represents Canada and U.S. agreement on 29 initiatives that will serve as an important first step in establishing a new level of regulatory cooperation and alignment between Canada and the United States. Initiatives are concentrated on sectors of the economy. Whenever possible, solutions that are developed under the Joint Action Plan will be used as models for achieving greater alignment in other areas.
These initiatives are organized under the following sectoral categories:
- Agriculture and Food
- Health and Personal Care Products and Workplace Chemicals
Two other initiatives (small business lens and nanomaterials) will address issues affecting more than one sector.
Work under the Joint Action Plan will be consistent with both countries’ sovereignty, privacy regimes and distinct legal and regulatory frameworks. Cooperative alignment can occur while respecting these laws and leaving final decisions in the hands of each sovereign jurisdiction.
The role of the RCC in implementing the Joint Action Plan will be one of broad engagement, bilateral and horizontal coordination. Meetings of the RCC will be held quarterly to discuss progress. Stakeholder engagement sessions will be held as part of these meetings twice per year, and results of the RCC work will be made public on a regular basis.
Implementing the Action Plan / The Working Groups
The initiatives outlined in the Joint Action Plan will be implemented by working groups made up of officials from regulatory agencies on both sides of the border. These working groups will be led by senior officials in the implicated departments with responsibility for the regulations and their implementation.
The RCC will work closely with the working groups and will undertake to resolve systemic or horizontal challenges facing them.
In implementing the 29 initiatives identified in this Joint Action Plan, working groups will be responsible for developing work plans with concrete objectives, deliverables and setting out milestones for tangible progress within the RCC’s two-year mandate. Work will be focused on resolving issues in ways that contribute to long-term alignment, engaging stakeholders effectively, and ensuring timely progress.
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