United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC): What the Joint Action Plan means for agriculture and food

Washington, D.C.
7 December 2011

Bilateral trade in Agriculture and Food between Canada and the U.S. has enabled both countries’ citizens to enjoy a reliable supply of some of the safest and highest quality food in the world. In 2010, with $33 billion in total bilateral trade in agricultural products, Canada purchased approximately 13% of American exports, while Canadian products made up nearly one-fifth of agricultural imports into the American market. On both sides of the border, this bilateral trade provides people with employment opportunities; consumers with a greater variety of safe and high-quality food products; and agricultural producers and food processors with a larger and more diversified market in which to operate.

Increased regulatory cooperation in this sector will help make it easier to conduct business between the two countries, thus contributing to the benefits of Canada-U.S. trade in agriculture and agri-food products. By bringing together regulators and technical experts from both sides of the border, the collective capacity will serve to mutually strengthen the Canadian and U.S. regulatory systems for agriculture and food.

The Joint Action Plan focuses on three aspects of agriculture and food: food safety, agricultural production and marketing.

Food Safety

Canada and the U.S. have very rigorous food safety systems to protect consumers and contribute to the success of the sector. Acknowledging the high food safety standards on both sides of the border provides an opportunity to focus on areas of higher risk, while removing unnecessary burdens on food producers. Although each country independently administers its regulations – and there can be differences in approach – whenever possible, efforts should be focused on regulatory alignment recognizing common health and safety outcomes.

In this regard, the Joint Action Plan proposes to:

  • Develop 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 U.S. meat and poultry inspection systems;
  • 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 simplify and reduce, where possible, import and administrative procedures.

Agricultural Production

Canadian and U.S. regulatory requirements and approval processes for agricultural products such as veterinary drugs and crop protection products (like pesticides) are already highly aligned; however, more could be done to encourage simultaneous application for approval in both countries and to minimize differences in maximum residue limits.

The initiatives related to Agricultural Production in the Joint Action Plan propose to:

  • Create an environment to allow for simultaneous submission and joint review of pesticide applications in order to facilitate equal access to crop protection products and minimize differences in maximum pesticide residue limits and tolerances;
  • Further align approval processes for veterinary drugs, therefore promoting equal access to veterinary drug products and minimizing differences in maximum drug residue limits and tolerances;
  • Develop a North American perimeter approach for plant protection in order to collectively protect plant resources and streamline certification for shipments across the Canada-U.S. border; and
  • Develop a common approach for zoning to help prevent the spread of foreign animal diseases.

Marketing

Canada and the U.S. recognize the need for common, fair trading practices to support a secure and stable market place (like tools to mitigate losses resulting from unethical actions and labelling standards consistent with industry conventions). To ensure a fair and competitive market for all producers, the Joint Action Plan will work toward establishing mechanisms that provide Canadian and American businesses with comparable tools to alleviate the risks associated with buyers who default on their payments. Specifically, it proposes to:

  • Create a common meat-cut nomenclature or naming system and a mechanism for maintaining that system; and
  • Develop comparable approaches to protect Canada and U.S. fruit and vegetable suppliers from buyers who default on their payments.

More details on these and other Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Action Plan measures are available at http://actionplan.gc.ca/border.

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