Column: Cooperation could smooth Canada-U.S. trade

Scott Brison
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Canada and the United States have developed the most highly integrated economies in the world, with shared supply chains in every sector. Our two countries depend on each other for our mutual prosperity, trading some U.S. $2 billion worth of goods and services every day.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring this remarkable relationship is not jeopardized, because millions of good, middle-class jobs on both sides of the border depend on trade between our two countries. Businesses large and small stand to gain when they have access to both markets. Consumers do, too.

As befits two sovereign nations, Canadian and American regulations, and the activities that support them, have developed independently of each other. Yet despite often sharing the same regulatory goals — including the protection of our environment, health and safety — in too many instances industry faces differing sets of rules and processes. These differences, often small or outdated, burden business, add to the retail price paid by consumers and impede economic growth.

To help overcome these differences, Canada and the U.S. established the Regulatory Cooperation Council in 2011. It’s a voluntary, low-cost initiative that helps reduce trade-hindering administrative and compliance burdens for business. The council fosters alignment across a range of regulatory activities, such as the development of standards, inspections, certification, testing, product approvals and monitoring of products on the market.

Sixteen Canadian and U.S. agencies participate in the council, with mandates that span key sectors including transportation, agriculture and food, chemicals, energy and pharmaceuticals. Together, they continue to produce numerous success stories such as the harmonization of labeling and safety information for hazardous chemicals. As a result of work on just this one initiative, American and Canadian companies no longer need to re-test, re-classify and re-label their products to sell them in both markets, saving the North American paint and coating industry alone an estimated U.S. $20 million to $40 million in 2015.

In May 2015, a single more robust standard for a new class of rail tank car for flammable liquids was approved in both the U.S. and Canada. This intensive cross-border cooperation between regulators has further strengthened the safe transportation of dangerous goods for communities all along our interconnected rail network.

Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration, recently began a pilot project to allow certain American manufactured sunscreens to come to market in Canada without being quarantined and tested for a second time at the border. This could save the consumer health product industry some U.S. $75,000 per sunscreen product, millions of dollars per company, and help provide Canadians with access to more high-quality U.S.-manufactured skincare products — just in time for summer.

Meanwhile, another pilot project has Canadian and U.S. officials carrying out joint inspections of vessels on the Great Lakes, a terrific example of how regulators from our two countries have built a foundation of trust and collaboration.

Our countries have a long, successful record of working together to identify and eliminate needless regulatory differences, whether on transport safety standards, joint inspections, or providing industry with a single window to submit product reviews.

We know that anything that thickens the border — be it tariffs, taxes at the border or misaligned regulations — is bad for business and bad for consumers, in the United States as well as in Canada.

Scott Brison is the president of the Treasury Board of Canada.

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