Joint Statement by Minister Andy Mitchell, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Secretary Mike Johanns, United States Department of Agriculture
March 31, 2005 - Cartagena, Colombia
"We welcomed today this important opportunity to meet on the margins of the 27th Cairns Group Ministerial meeting to discuss matters of mutual importance to agriculture in our two countries.
"During this meeting we discussed the importance of increased political commitment in order to achieve an ambitious conclusion to the WTO agricultural negotiations. We also discussed the need for our continued cooperation to keep the momentum of the talks on track in lead up to the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting in December 2005.
"Additionally, we discussed BSE broadly and, in particular, the need to build additional public awareness about the effectiveness of the risk mitigation measures related to BSE that have been taken in North America. In this regard, we recognize that it is important to promote an increased awareness of the coordinated and effective approach that has been undertaken to deal with BSE risk in North America, and how the measures in place effectively protect human and animal health.
"We discussed how the multiple mitigation measures related to BSE have been in place for a sufficiently long period for us to be able to confirm that these initiatives to protect human health are working. We recognized that Canada and the United States have had equivalent feed bans in place since 1997, and that their effectiveness has been established through several comprehensive reviews that have taken place over the past year.
"We further noted that the minimal prevalence of BSE in the North American herd has been corroborated by the results of the intensified surveillance measures taken. As well, we acknowledged that the ultimate measure for ensuring consumer safety, namely the removal of specified risk materials from the human food chain has been in effect for months. As a result of these measures, we can now substantiate what we have been asserting since BSE was detected in North America almost two years ago: North American beef is safe for consumers.
"We reasserted our commitment to the normalization of trade in live cattle and beef products in North America. We discussed the status of USDA's next step in resuming full trade with Canada, namely, moving forward in an expeditious manner in the development of a plan to permit the importation of animals 30 months of age and older for slaughter, as well as meat from those animals. We agreed that decisions will be made on the latest scientific information to assure that the protection of public and animal health remains the highest priority for both of our countries.
"We also discussed other issues relating to the need for increased export opportunities for our agriculture sectors, both of which depend on access to foreign markets to ensure their prosperity. We appreciated the opportunity to share ideas about the pace and potential impact of WTO agriculture negotiations, as well as about the challenges posed by BSE in North America, and we look forward to meeting again."