Technical trade issues in agriculture

While the strengthening of international trade rules has a had a positive effect on traditional barriers to trade such as tariffs and tariff rate quotas, technical trade barriers have been steadily emerging in the international marketplace. They are important, growing complex issues faced by Canadian companies exporting agriculture and food products abroad.

What are technical barriers to trade?

Technical barriers to trade refer to technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures that have the potential to create unnecessary obstacles to trade. These measures are designed to achieve a range of policy goals, such as ensuring the health and safety of consumers, animals, plants, and protection of the environment.

While the vast majority of these measures are designed to achieve non-trade related objectives, they can also have the unintended effect of restricting or distorting trade. Technical barriers to trade have been steadily emerging in the international marketplace which affects Canadian companies exporting agricultural and agri-food products abroad.

Canada's participation to set international trade rules

Through international trade rules, Canada and its trading partners have an obligation to ensure that technical regulations and standards do not unnecessarily restrict global trade.

Given the importance of the international market to the Canadian agri-food sector, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the role of International Standards Setting Bodies (ISSBs), which are:

These ISSBs develop harmonized international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect consumers' health and ensure fair practices in the food trade. Therefore, through its participation in these organizations, as well as in the World Trade Organization, Canada encourages countries to base their national measures on international standards in order to create a transparent and predictable trading environment which helps Canadian exporters to access foreign markets for their agricultural and agri-food products.

Standards issues impacting the prosperity of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector

Pesticide and veterinary drug maximum residues limit

Pesticide and veterinary drug maximum residue limits (MRLs) are the maximum amounts of residues that are expected to remain in or on agricultural and agri-food products when pesticides or veterinary drugs are used according to label directions and are not a concern to human health.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada works to ensure that domestic and international MRLs standards and regulations are transparent, support a predictable trading environment, are risk-based, and are founded on the use of scientific evidences.

Agricultural biotechnology

As a leading producer and exporter of Genetically Modified (GM) agricultural products, export markets are critical to the prosperity of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is committed to fostering:

  • An innovative and competitive Canadian agricultural sector; and
  • A predictable international trading environment for GM crop exports.

To help address challenges posed by differences in regulatory approaches to GM products, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada continues to work with Canada's trading partners towards the adoption and implementation of science-based, transparent and predictable regulatory frameworks to facilitate the trade of GM crops and ensure that our agriculture exporters are treated fairly in the global marketplace.

Low Level Presence

Recognizing the importance of this issue, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, working in collaboration with international partners, has explored various approaches where Low Level Presence (LLP) occurrences could be managed in a way that increase trade predictability and transparency, minimize unnecessary LLP-related trade disruptions, and build consensus on the way forward towards developing international approaches to manage LLP.

As the number of GM crops being developed and traded increases, so does the likelihood of Low Level presence (LL). LLP situations can occur:

  • when there is a time gap in the authorization of GM crops between importing and exporting countries, or
  • when developers do not seek authorizations in importing countries.

Sources of LLP can vary, including lingering traces of discontinued varieties present in export streams, or unintentional mixing into export streams of crops intended for domestic use.