Harmonization effort a flop, business coalition charges

Despite the backing of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a cross-border initiative to harmonize Canadian and American regulations has made paltry progress, says the Canadian Manufacturing Coalition.

Announced with considerable fanfare by the two leaders in 2011, the Regulatory Cooperation Council has made “little or no progress,” the coalition says in a letter to Robert Carberry, assistant secretary of the council’s secretariat.

“Out of the thousands of regulations that affect companies manufacturing and selling products in each country, only a handful have been aligned to allow for a product to be designed, manufactured, approved, and sold in both countries through a single process,” the letter states.

Among the 27 national industry associations that signed the letter are the Canadian Meat Council, BIOTECanada, the Canadian Animal Health Institute, Food and Consumer Products of Canada, the George Morris Centre, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and the Association of Farm Equipment Manufacturers.

The concerns have previously been delivered privately to the council, said Mathew Wilson, vice-president of national policy for Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

“The conversation is ongoing,” he noted. “The regulators in both countries control the agenda and some are more open to change while others are not interested.”

Business leaders from both countries have pointed to the regulatory streamlining that Australia and New Zealand have accomplished as a model for the North American neighbours to emulate, he said.

When the council was created, it was given 29 priority areas to work on, and it should commit to wrapping those up during the next year, the letter says. It also calls for the federal cabinet to press for speedier progress on an issue that has been an irritant to business since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed a quarter of a century ago.

“Despite the FTA, and deeply integrated industries and supply chains, regulators did not align to meet modern business realities in the vast majority of instances,” the letter states.

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