Friday, December 20, 2013

Meat trade still hampered at Canada-U.S. border

 It's not what they say, but what they do that counts.

Two years after President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a deal to facilitate agricultural trade, border-crossing issues remain a major irritant for Canadian exporters.

“Canadian meat processors recognize and appreciate the progress that has been achieved during the past two years on a variety of Beyond the Border projects, including the Single Window and the Border Fees Transparency initiatives,” said Canadian Meat Council President Arnold Drung who is also chief executive officer for Conestoga Meat Packers at Breslau, Ont.

“At the same time, we regret the apparent absence of progress on the promised bi-national pilot project on meat shipments,” Drung said.

In a news release, the meat council says “a promising initiative was inclusion in the Beyond the Border Action Plan of a pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of eliminating border re-inspection of meat trade between Canada and the United States. “

It hasn’t happened – yet.

“Meat that is exported from the United States to Canada is not re-inspected at the border. Rather, it is allowed to move inland to one of hundreds of Canadian federally registered establishments where any requisite samples are collected and inspections performed,” the meat council says.

“Meat should move as easily from Canada into the United States as it currently does from the United States into Canada,” said the council’s executive director, Jim Laws.

“Indeed, meat should move as freely between Canada and the United States as it does between most countries of the European Union,” Laws said.

The one-year pilot project for meat exported from Canada to the U.S. was scheduled to begin in September of 2012, but still hasn’t been launched.

“Canadian meat exporters pay more than $3.6 million in fees annually to privately-owned U.S. inspection houses
located near the U.S. border, and these fees are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture so Canadian exporters are charged whatever the inspection houses wish,” says the council.

There are no similar fees charged by Canadians on imports from the U.S.

Canada’s 400-some federally-registered establishments book annual sales of $24.1 billion, beef exports of $1.3 billion, pork exports of $3.2 billion and employ about 68,500 people, the meat council says.