WASHINGTON, March 27, 2008-Officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico concluded a series of meetings today that provided all three countries an opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern affecting agriculture, food and trade.
Today, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Canadian Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz held the first meeting between the countries since full implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Jan. 1, 2008. And, the United States, Canada and Mexico announced protocols, effective tomorrow, to harmonize standards for the export of U.S. and Canadian breeding cattle to Mexico consistent with international standards.
"Canada, Mexico and the United States have been engaged in candid, productive talks over the past two days," said Schafer. "As each other's most important trading partners, we discussed trade in a variety of agricultural products. We mutually agreed on the importance of normalizing beef and cattle trade in North America consistent with the guidelines established by the World Organization for Animal Health. Our respective industries have benefited when our countries have worked together, and we are confident that we can build on our history of trust and collaboration to continue to resolve issues and to help set the standard for progressive trade policy and science-based practices with other countries."
Tomorrow, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); Mexico's Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (SAGARPA); and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will make effective protocols for the trade of breeding cattle born after Jan. 1, 1999, consistent with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) standards. The new protocols outline conditions for the export of U.S. and Canadian cattle to Mexico. Canadian exporters will need to obtain import permits from APHIS and SAGARPA, as well as a health certificate from CFIA. Shipments will be inspected by U.S. and Mexican officials.
The harmonization of the standards in North America reaffirms the U.S. position that cattle can be traded safely when countries follow the OIE standards for effectively managing the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and further ensures that trade protocols for Canada, Mexico and the United States are consistent between the countries and with OIE. The protocols further a 2005 agreement to more effectively address the BSE risk in North America.
In May 2007, the OIE formally classified the United States as a controlled risk country for BSE. This status confirmed that U.S. BSE regulatory controls are effective and that U.S. beef and beef products of all ages can be safely traded.
OIE recommendations, which are based on the latest science, provide guidelines for trade in cattle of any age, as well as beef and many other cattle products. These guidelines apply to all OIE risk country classifications for BSE with recommended mitigation measures appropriately applied to protect both human and animal health.