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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada, U.S. take step toward regulatory harmonization

WASHINGTON - The Canadian and American governments have announced a new step toward constantly co-ordinating their regulatory environments across a broad range of industries.

Federal agencies will work with their cross-border counterparts to produce, within six months, public statements explaining how they'll work with industry, and each other, to simplify regulations for businesses operating in both countries.

The process will involve two-dozen areas including: meat inspection, animal health, toys, marine safety, aviation, energy efficiency, pharmaceuticals and pest control, according to a document released Friday.

The 44-page document released by the White House and Canada's Privy Council Office said the goal was to make co-operation a permanent and ongoing process, while future policies are being developed.

"The long-term goal is to have bilateral regulatory cooperation within the regular planning and operational activities of regulatory agencies," said the document.

But it insisted each nation would retain the sovereignty to make its own choices. The document said nothing under the initiative, called the Joint Forward Plan, would impose any obligations on either country under domestic or international law.

The process will be overseen, at least initially, by the Regulatory Cooperation Council, created in 2011 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

A major binational business group hailed the announcement as positive, but not forceful enough. While the process looks ahead at future rules, it said there are old ones that need to be looked at.

As one example, the Canadian American Business Council pointed to old rules for cereal that force companies into a more complicated, expensive production process.

"We appreciate the work that is planned to resolve future regulatory issues, but we would also like to urge the governments to consider tackling current entrenched challenges that the RCC efforts to date have not attempted to resolve," said CABC adviser Scotty Greenwood.

"For example, the issue of how breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins has been a long-standing example of regulatory incoherence between Canada and the U.S., yet the RCC says it is not geared towards solving problems like the 'Cheerio' challenge. The business community would welcome an effort to resolve existing specific regulatory burdens, not just attempting to solve future problems that haven't occurred yet."

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