So this morning we were reading through the work plan for the High Level Regulatory Cooperation Council between Mexico and the United States (HLRCC). We figure you’ve probably already read it too, but just in case you were tied up in a meeting or something, here are a few comments on the Council and its work plan.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Mexican government has been on something of a regulatory-upgrade roll during this administration. We noted a package of regulatory reforms aimed at facilitating new business startups, the drive to take Customs processing online and a raft of green policy initiatives as some recent examples. The HLRCC, charged with improving the compatibility, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of government regulations across the two countries, was announced jointly by Presidents Barack Obama and Felipe Calderón on May 19, 2010. Both countries held consultations with stakeholders during 2011 to gather input from industry and the public, and the work plan, released February 28, 2012, provides an outline of the objectives and timelines of the Council’s activities for the coming two years.
As always, we greet such regulatory improvement initiatives with a mixture of delight and trepidation; delight because improvement is sorely needed, and trepidation that the proposal may end up creating even more bureaucracy with no tangible benefits. On the Mexican side, the agencies involved are those with which importers here must grapple regularly in the struggle to properly register and document products for import: the Ministries of the Economy (SE), Health (SS), Environment (Semarnat), Agriculture (Sagarpa) and the at times Darth Vader-like Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) and National Agricultural Health, Hygiene and Quality Service (Senasica). We have no reason to doubt that our colleagues at these agencies are working hard to protect the public and do their jobs. But regulatory matters are complex, regulations often unclear or subject to interpretation, and breakdowns in communication can result in an onerous burden on trade, not to mention nasty losses for importers and exporters on both sides of the border. For these reasons, we fully support the goals of the HLRCC and fervently hope the program yields some concrete results.
Here are some examples of specific areas addressed in the work plan:
- Food safety modernization: Work with Mexican government agencies and private sector representatives to build capacity for Mexico to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements for Mexican food products imported into the United States.
- E-certification for plants and plant products: Develop compatible electronic certificate programs such as phytosanitary e-certificates. Being able to submit digital certificates acceptable to Senasica would be an important step forward for those of us who have struggled with approvals for plant-based products.
- Transportation: Work with Mexican regulators to harmonize Mexico’s trucking safety standards (NOM-068-SCT-2-2000) with corresponding U.S. standards to simplify and hasten border inspections. This is timely in the context of last year’s resolution of the cross-border trucking dispute.
- Nanotechnology: Work to develop a harmonized approach to policy regarding applications of nanotechnology and nanomaterials. Specifics to be addressed include terminology/nomenclature, information-gathering and approaches to risk assessment and management, to achieve consistency across the two countries.
- Offshore oil and gas development standards: Develop a set of harmonized standards related to the exploration and production of oil resources, such as well control and containment standards and requirements for sharing worst-case discharge and spill response plans. This will be carried out in the context of the recently-signed agreement between Mexico and the United States governing exploitation of transboundary oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is more to the work plan than we’ve discussed here, of course, so if you think your business might be affected by the HLRCC, you can read through the work plan itself in English here or in Spanish here.
Or, if you have any questions about how Mexican regulatory environments might affect your products, drop us a line at email@example.com .