Canada's Notification Authority and Enquiry Point
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
Technical regulations and product standards may vary from country to country. Having many different regulations and standards makes life difficult for producers and exporters. If regulations are set arbitrarily, they could be used as an excuse for protectionism. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles, while also providing members with the right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety, or the environment. The obligations in that WTO Agreement are referenced and expanded on in “Technical Barriers to Trade” or “Standards Related Measures” Chapters in almost all of Canada’s Free Trade Agreements.
Technical barriers to trade: technical explanation (provided by the WTO).
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)
In order to ensure that Canada’s consumers are being supplied with food that is safe to eat by Canadian standards, and at the same time, to ensure that strict health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers, Canada has adhere to the WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (or SPS) measures that sets out the basic rules on how governments can apply food safety and animal and plant health measures.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures: An Introduction (provided by the WTO).
The obligations in these two agreements are largely duplicated in the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA):
- Chapter 9 of NAFTA deals with “standards-related measures”, which have the same general scope and obligations as the WTO TBT Agreement; and
- Chapter 7 of NAFTA deals with agriculture and SPS measures.
World Trade Organization (WTO) Member governments and their sub-national governments are obliged to report certain trade measures to the relevant WTO body that may have an effect on Trade. This is done through notifications issued by their respective national notification authorities and enquiry points In addition to informing WTO Members of a new measure, the process allows concerned parties to comment on it before it comes into force. WTO Members are required to consider these comments when finalizing the measure. Canada has similar obligations as a result of other Agreements, notably the NAFTA, that are met through the same process.
Notifications can take various forms. There can be a new notification that is used to notify a new full text of a proposed measure; an addendum to notify additional information related to the original notification; a corrigendum to correct non-substantive errors in the original notification; and a revision, which is used when the originally notified measure undergoes substantive changes (the revision replaces the existing notification).
Notifications can be provided to Canada’s Notification Authority and Enquiry Point by federal, provincial, and territorial regulators. Canadian regulators simply have to use the TBT online Notifications Submission System , the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Notification Submission System, or submit the appropriate form to Canada’s Notification Authority and Enquiry Point. They may want to consult officers of the Technical Barriers and Regulations Division (TIB), or the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Division (TIF) of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development for advice on whether a measure needs to be notified and on the content of that notification.
Any notification, addendum, corrigendum, revision, etc. has to allow a period for comments. Comments on a notification from a country other than Canada are sent to the Notification Authority and Enquiry Point who will ensure its transmission to both the issuing Member and all the other Members. Comments received by others on Canadian notifications will be received by the Notification Authority and Enquiry Point and provided to the relevant regulator for their consideration and response.
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