WINNIPEG, Manitoba Canada and the United States intend to recognize each other's zoning measures during highly contagious foreign animal disease outbreaks, Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Jan. 16. Even though foreign animal disease outbreaks are very rare in North America, this arrangement will help minimize trade disruptions while simultaneously preventing the spread of disease, in the event of an outbreak.

"Cross-border trade in live animals, meat and other animal products and by-products contributes billions of dollars each year to Canada's economy," Ritz said. "This arrangement will keep US market opportunities open for Canadian producers should a foreign animal-disease outbreak occur, all while protecting human and animal health."

Both parties explained this initiative fulfills a commitment made in the December 2011 Joint Action Plan of the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), which is intended to better align the two countries' regulations. The primary goal of the RCC is to enhance the economic competitiveness and well-being of the Canada and the US, while maintaining high standards of animal health, public health and safety and environmental protection.

The arrangement calls for each country to accept each other's decisions on establishing, maintaining and releasing a disease control and eradication zone if an outbreak of a foreign animal disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease or classical swine fever, occurs. A detailed guidance framework outlining how the arrangement will work is under development. It will lay out agreed-upon processes and conditions for zoning recognition and involve extensive consultation with industry groups, states and provinces.

In practice, the arrangement will mean if Canada were to establish a disease-control and eradication zone anywhere in Canada, the US Department of Agriculture would continue to allow imports of live animals, animal products and by-products from disease-free areas of Canada. Once Canada released the zone, the US would allow trade to resume from that area. Reciprocal arrangements would apply in the case of zones established anywhere in the US.