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Trade Regulations and Standards in Canada

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Import Tariffs
Trade Barriers

U.S. Export Controls

Temporary Entry

Labeling and Marking Requirements

Prohibited and Restricted Imports
Customs Regulations and Contact Information


Trade Agreements

Web Resources

Import Tariffs

Pursuant to the NAFTA, Canada eliminated tariffs on January 1, 1988, on all industrial and most agricultural products imported from the United States. In 2010 Canada announced the unilateral elimination of import tariffs on manufacturing inputs. Most tariffs were eliminated immediately and the remainder will be eliminated by 2015. In an effort to reflect current sourcing and production trends, an updating of the NAFTA rules of origin is underway. This will allow more goods and services to quality for preferential duty treatment under the NAFTA.

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Trade Barriers

Agricultural Supply Management
Canada uses supply management systems to regulate its dairy, chicken, turkey, and egg industries. Canada’s supply management regime involves production quotas, producer marketing boards to regulate price and supply, and border protection achieved through tariff-rate quotas (TRQs). Canada’s supply management regime severely limits the ability of U.S. producers to increase exports to Canada above the TRQ levels and inflates the prices Canadians pay for dairy and poultry products. The United States has pressed for expanded in-quota quantities for these products as part of the negotiations regarding disciplines on TRQs in the WTO Doha Round agricultural negotiations. One of the barriers created by Canada's dairy policies is an ad valorem tariff of over 200 percent on U.S. exports of cheese.

Early in 2008, Canada announced its intention to proceed with the implementation of the Special Safeguard (SSG) under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture for its supply-managed goods. The SSG is a provision that would allow additional duties to be imposed on over-quota trade when import volumes rise above a certain level, or if prices fall below a certain level.  Canada continues to work on the details and monitor over-quota trade, but has not established a timeframe for announcing the SSG price and volume triggers.

Restrictions on U.S. Grain Exports
Canada has eliminated its requirement that all registered variety of grain be visually distinguishable based on a system of Kernel Visual Distinguish ability (KVD) requirements. Despite this change, seed must still be registered for use in Canada and continues to limit U.S. export access to Canada’s grain market. For example, to date, only one U.S. variety of seed wheat has been approved for seed wheat use in Canada. It will take years before U.S. wheat varieties are able to complete the necessary field trials to determine whether they will be registered for use in Canada. The Canadian government, however, has expressed openness to revisiting the registration requirements due to recent changes to the Canadian Wheat Board which may result in increased demand by Canadian grain farmers to have access to U.S. wheat varieties.

Personal Duty Exemption
The United States continues to urge Canada to facilitate cross border trade for returning residents by relaxing its taxation of goods that Canadian tourists purchase in the United States. Canada’s allowance is linked to the length of a tourist’s absence from Canada and allows a zero exemption for tourists absent less than a day. The allowance is approximately $47 for tourists absent for at least 24 hours, and approximately $379 and $711 for visits exceeding 48 hours and 7 days, respectively. The United States provides much more generous treatment for its returning travelers, with a minimum allowance of $200 and, once each 30 days, an $800 allowance for travelers returning after 48 hours. Canada claims that the need to collect a value-added tax at the border (equivalent to Canada's federal and provincial sales taxes) is the reason for the continuing differences in the national personal duty exemptions.

Wine and Spirits
In Canada, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act gives power of the sale and distribution of alcoholic products to the provincial liquor boards or commissions and restricts interprovincial shipping of alcoholic beverages. This poses a challenge for companies as they must deal with each province separately and each has their own regulations and processes for obtaining a listing. Alberta is the only province that has partially privatized it distribution system. Some obstacles that companies may run into include sales quotas, requirements for in-province agents and differences in labeling (including for allergens).

The Canadian Wheat Board and State Trading Enterprises (STEs)
The United States has had longstanding concerns about the monopolistic marketing practices of the Canadian Wheat Board. In late December 2011, Canada passed legislation that ends the monopolistic practices for the Canadian Wheat Board as of August 1, 2012. Western Canadian wheat and barley farmers are now free to contract with whomever they wish for sales to be delivered on or after August 1, 2012. The legislation also requires that the CWB transition to a commercial enterprise within five years. If the CWB fails to do so, it will be dissolved.

Softwood lumber
The Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) entered into force in 2006 and will expire in 2013 unless renewed. The United States and Canada are in the process of renewing the SLA through 2015. Its implementation settled extensive litigation and resulted in the revocation of U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty orders on softwood lumber from Canada. The SLA is designed to create a downward adjustment in softwood lumber exports from Canada into the United States through the imposition of export measures by Canada when demand in the United States is low. The SLA also provides for binding arbitration to resolve disputes between the United States and Canada regarding interpretation and implementation of the Agreement. Under the SLA, arbitration is conducted under the rules of the LCIA (formerly the London Court of International Arbitration). The Softwood Lumber Committee, established pursuant to the SLA, meets to discuss a range of implementation issues and Canadian provincial assistance programs for softwood lumber industries.

In 2007, the United States expressed concerns regarding Canada’s implementation of SLA export measures, in particular the operation of the Agreement’s surge mechanism, quota volumes, and several federal and provincial assistance programs. In February 2009, an arbitral tribunal found that the equivalent of an additional $36.66 million should be collected on imports of softwood lumber products from the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. When Canada did not cure the breach voluntarily, the United States imposed a 10 percent ad valorem tariff on softwood lumber products exported to the United States from Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. In September 2009, the tribunal rejected Canada’s arguments that it had cured its breach by offering to pay the United States $36.66 million. In 2010, the United States agreed that Canada could undertake domestic export measures to cure the breach in a manner consistent with the tribunal’s decision.

The United States filed a request for arbitration in January 2008 challenging a number of assistance programs implemented by Quebec and Ontario, which the United States believes are inconsistent with Canada’s obligations under the anti-circumvention provision of the SLA. An award in this arbitration is expected in 2011. The United States sought consultations in September 2010 as a step toward possible arbitration over British Columbia's grading and pricing of pine-beetle damaged lumber.

Ontario Feed-In Tariff Program
The Province of Ontario announced a feed-in tariff energy program that began in early 2010. Under the program, the Ontario Power Authority buys energy produced through alternative means (wind, solar/photovoltaic) on the condition that suppliers use a provincially-mandated percentage of local content (equipment, services, etc.) in their generating activity. The program has provoked complaints from U.S. suppliers of equipment and services because the program’s domestic content requirement provides a disincentive to purchase from U.S. suppliers. In September 2010, Japan filed a request for consultations with the WTO Dispute Settlement Body regarding the domestic content requirements of the Ontario Green Energy and Green Economy Act 2009. The United States and the European Union were granted third-party observer status in these proceedings. In July 2011 a Texas-based renewable energy firm filed under NAFTA Chapter 11 against the Canadian government, claiming the program violates Canada’s obligations under NAFTA to provide investors with fair and equitable treatment.

Intellectual Property Rights Protection
Canada has been listed on the U.S. Special 301 Priority Watch List since 2009. Concerns cited in the report relate to Canada’s failure to implement key copyright reforms, particularly the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet treaties, which Canada signed in 1997. The Canadian government reintroduced legislation, the Copyright Modernization Act, in 2011 in an effort to align its copyright laws with international standards and implement the rights and protections of the WIPO Internet Treaties. As of January 2012, Parliament has yet to enact the copyright legislation. The Canadian government has also failed to enact legislation that would allow Canadian border enforcement officials the ex officio authority to seize counterfeit goods without a court order. Canada signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement in October 2011 that obligates it to grant border officials ex officio authority, but the implementing legislation has not yet been introduced. U.S stakeholders have expressed strong concerns about Canada’s administrative process for reviewing the regulatory approval of pharmaceutical products, and limitations in Canada’s trademark regime as well.

Canada maintains a 46.7 percent limit on foreign ownership of suppliers of facilities-based telecommunications service, except for submarine cable operations. In addition to the equity limitations, Canada requires that at least 80 percent of the members of the board of directors of facilities-based telecommunications service suppliers be Canadian citizens. As a consequence of foreign ownership restrictions, U.S. firms’ presence in the Canadian market as wholly U.S.-owned operators is limited to that of a reseller, dependent on Canadian facilities-based operators for critical services and component parts. These restrictions deny foreign providers certain regulatory advantages only available to facilities-based carriers (e.g., access to unbundled network elements and certain bottleneck facilities). This limits those U.S. companies’ options for providing high quality end-to-end telecommunications services, as they cannot own or operate their own telecommunications transmission facilities. The Canadian government pledged in 2010 to further open its telecommunications industries to foreign investment and is considering three options to liberalize the sector: increasing the ownership limitation to 49 percent, eliminating ownership restrictions for carriers with less than 10 percent market share, and completely removing all ownership restrictions. In December 2011, Canada reiterated its pledge to clarify its telecom policy before the planned 2012 750 MHz spectrum auction.

Canadian Content in Broadcasting
The Broadcasting Act lists among its objectives, “to safeguard, enrich, and strengthen the cultural, political, social, and economic fabric of Canada.” The federal broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), implements this policy. The CRTC requires that for Canadian over-the-air broadcasters, Canadian programs must make up 60 percent of television broadcast time overall and 50 percent from 6 p.m. to midnight. It also requires that 35 percent of popular musical selections broadcast on the radio should qualify as “Canadian” under a Canadian government-determined point system. For cable television and direct to home broadcast services, more than 50 percent of the channels received by subscribers must be Canadian programming services.

The CRTC also requires that the English and French television networks operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation not show popular foreign feature movies between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. The only non-Canadian films that may be broadcast during that time must have been released in theaters at least two years previously. Non-Canadian channels must be pre-approved (“listed”) by the CRTC. For other services, such as specialty television and satellite radio services, the required percentage of Canadian content varies according to the nature of the service. Canadian licensees may appeal the listing of a non-Canadian service that is thought to compete with a Canadian pay or specialty service. The CRTC will consider removing existing non-Canadian services from the list, or shifting them into a less competitive location on the channel dial, if they change format to compete with a Canadian pay or specialty service.

The CRTC has come under pressure from Canada’s traditional broadcasters to impose Canadian content requirements on “over-the-top” (OTT) providers such as Netflix, iTunes, and Google Video. The CRTC has not found sufficient cause to pursue regulatory restrictions on OTT providers, but has pledged to closely monitor the impact of OTT providers on the Canadian broadcasting environment. Distributors of theatrical films in Canada must submit their films to six different provincial or regional boards for classification. Most of these boards also classify products intended for home video distribution.

General Establishment Restrictions
Under the Investment Canada Act (ICA), the Broadcasting Act, the Telecommunications Act, and standing Canadian regulatory policy, Canada screens new or expanded foreign investment in the energy and mining, banking, fishing, publishing, telecommunications, transportation, film, music, broadcasting, cable television, and real estate sectors.

The ICA has regulated foreign investment in Canada since 1985.  Foreign investors must notify the government of Canada prior to the direct or indirect acquisition of an existing Canadian business of substantial size (as defined below).  The Canadian government also reviews the acquisition by non-Canadians of existing Canadian businesses, as well as the establishment of new Canadian businesses in designated types of business activity relating to Canada’s culture, heritage, or national identity where the federal government has authorized such review as in the public interest.  In 2009, the Harper government increased the threshold for review to $1 billion (enterprise value), allowing almost all U.S. investment to enter the country without notification. At the same time, the government added national security considerations as an additional component of investment review. Industry Canada is the reviewing authority for most investments, except for those related to cultural industries that come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Heritage.  The ICA also sets time limits for the reviews. Once an application for review is received, the Minister has 45 days to determine whether or not to allow the investment.  A 30-day extension is permitted if the investor is notified prior to the end of the initial 45-day period.  Investments in the cultural industries usually require the full 75 days to complete the review process.

Under the ICA, the Minister can make investment approval contingent on meeting certain conditions such as minimum levels of employment and R&D. Since the global economic slowdown in 2009, some foreign investors in Canada have had difficulties meeting these conditions.

Product Testing and Certification
U.S. exporters of consumer goods, toys, and medical equipment have raised concerns regarding the added costs arising from differences in health and safety regulations and/or duplication of certification and testing requirements in different federal and sub-federal jurisdictions. Canada and the United States announced the creation of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) on February 4, 2011. The RCC will increase regulatory transparency and cooperation between the United States and Canada and eliminate unnecessary regulatory differences and duplication that hinder cross-border trade and investment. The RCC Joint Action Plan sets out 29 initiatives where Canada and the United States will seek greater regulatory alignment over the next two years. Sectors to be addressed initially include agriculture and food, transportation, health and personal care products and workplace chemicals, the environment, and cross-sectoral issues.

Import Restrictions and Documentation
The Canada Border Services Agency website describes the required documents for import. The most important document required from a U.S. exporter is a properly completed Canada Customs Invoice or its equivalent, which is required for all commercial shipments imported into Canada. The exporter can use its own form if it has the required information on it. At the border, the importer or customs broker also submits Form B3, the customs coding form. Further information on Form B3 can be found in the brochure "Importing Commercial Goods into Canada – How to complete Form B3 when importing commercial goods." Other documents that trucking companies will provide for customs clearance may include a cargo control document and bill of lading. Some goods such as food or health-related products may be subject to the requirements of other federal government departments and may need permits, certificates, or examinations.

In addition, to obtain duty-free status under the NAFTA Rules of Origin, a commercial NAFTA import over CDN$1,600 must be accompanied by a NAFTA Certificate of Origin; while a commercial import less than CDN$1,600 only requires a statement of origin from the exporter that the product originates in a NAFTA state. Canada looks at the products and its component parts to determine whether a sufficient percentage of the value and/or composition of the final product qualifies for NAFTA origin. This can be quite complex and rules vary for each product so U.S. companies should consult the U.S. Department of Commerce's NAFTA Certificate of Origin Interactive Tool.

There are many customs brokers that can assist U.S. exporters with the details of the import documentation process, including Canada's non-resident importer program, in which the U.S. exporter in the United States obtains a "business number" and can then be the "importer of record" for purposes of customs clearance. This offers a number of marketing advantages, in particular the opportunity to remove the burden of customs clearance of commercial shipments from the Canadian customer. In fact, large retailers often demand that an exporter does whatever paperwork is required so that all the retailer needs to do is unload the goods from the truck and pay the exporter for the goods. Many brokers advertise their non-resident importer programs on their websites.

For most mail-order shipments, the only paperwork needed is a standard business invoice. Companies should indicate the amount paid by the customer for the goods, in either U.S. or Canadian dollars. If goods are shipped on a no-charge basis (samples or demos) companies must indicate the retail value of the shipment.

Beginning on November 1, 2012, highway carriers are mandated to provide electronic cargo and conveyance data to the Canada Border Services Agency prior to arriving at the Canadian border. eManifest is a Government of Canada initiative.

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U.S. Export Controls

The North American Free Trade Agreement came into force and eliminated many export controls with the foresight of reduced trade barriers for the United States, Canada and Mexico. This allows these countries to ship their goods all across North America without any fees or Shipper's Export Declarations (SED’s).

Shipments to Canada do not require an SED unless the shipment:

  • Requires a Department of Commerce export license;
  • Is subject to the Department of State, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regardless of license requirements; or
  • Is subject to Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, export declaration requirements.

For merchandise transshipped from the United States through Canada for ultimate destination to a foreign country, other than Canada, an SED or Automated Export System (AES) record is required.

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Temporary Entry

Canada allows the temporary import free of duty and tax of certain commercial goods and equipment such as brochures, commercial samples, audio-visual equipment and industrial equipment for business meetings, trade shows, product demonstrations and industrial or construction purposes.

If the goods are eligible for free entry, a refundable security deposit -- in the form of cash or bond -- may be required. Further information on Canada's Form E29B ("temporary entry") and other requirements are available on the Canada Border Services Agency website. Information on temporary entry of personal goods and equipment can also be found on this website.

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Labeling and Marking Requirements

The United States and Canada maintain different regulations regarding product labeling. The requirement that Canadian label information be provided in English and French creates extra costs for U.S. exporters. Exporters of food products face additional challenges because of different rules regarding the types of health claims that can be made on labels and different nutrition standards, such as recommended daily allowances of vitamins, etc.

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Prohibited and Restricted Imports

Certain goods may be prohibited or controlled, or require special permits, inspections or conditions to be met in order to allow them into Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency provides a step-by-step guide to help importers determine whether their goods may be subject to special rules or conditions.

The Export and Import Controls Board monitors the import and export of controlled goods. These include goods such as sugar and softwood lumber, which are the subject of quota agreements, as well as weapons, munitions, nuclear materials and goods of a similar nature. The Canada Border Services Agency administers Canada's laws and regulations governing products on the Import Control List.

Canadian requirements for foods fortified with vitamins and minerals have created a costly burden for American food manufacturers that export to Canada. Health Canada restricts the marketing of breakfast cereals and other products, such as orange juice, that are fortified with vitamins and/or minerals at certain levels. Canada’s regulatory regime requires that products such as calcium-enhanced orange juice be treated as a drug. The regime forces manufacturers to label vitamin- and mineral-fortified breakfast cereals as "meal replacements," which imposes costs on manufacturers who must make separate production runs for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Restrictions on Container Sizes
Canadian law requires manufacturers of baby food to sell in only two standardized container sizes: 4.5 ounces and 7.5 ounces.  The requirement to sell in container sizes that exist only in Canada makes it more costly for U.S. producers of baby food to export their products to Canada. In January 2010 Canada Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that would have allowed Gerber to test market baby-food in jar sizes that were not permitted under the Canadian rules.  Other companies such as Campbell Soup and Dole have expressed interest in test-marketing “innovative-sized” products in Canada. The United States has had long-standing, high-level interest.

Cheese Compositional Standards
In 2008, the Canadian government passed amendments to its Food and Drug Regulations and Dairy Products Regulations that altered the compositional requirements for cheese. Among U.S. concerns are that the requirements could significantly reduce the market access for milk protein concentrates, thereby potentially negatively affecting access for U.S. dairy to the Canadian market. The focus in 2009 centered on the pending outcome of domestic litigation in Canada. In October 2008, Canadian dairy processors petitioned the federal court of Canada for judicial review of the cheese requirements. The dairy processors asked the court to find the regulations invalid and without legal effect, arguing among other things that the regulations were promulgated for the purpose of providing an economic benefit to dairy producers at the expense of dairy processors and others.   The court issued an opinion on October 7, 2009 which upheld the government’s authority to issue the standards. This may have an effect on issuance of additional standards for other dairy products.

Business travelers should also be aware of Canadian restrictions on the importation of controlled substances and firearms. Further information is available from the U.S. State Department webpage "Tips for Travelers to Canada."

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Customs Regulations and Contact Information

Canadian customs regulations and information are available from the Canada Border Services Agency webpage at www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca.

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Standards Organizations

Conformity Assessment

Product Certification

Publication of Technical Regulations

Labeling and Marking



Products shipped to Canada must conform to the relevant Canadian standard. In most instances, Canadian and U.S. standards are very similar. As a result, products designed to conform to U.S. standards will often meet Canadian standards with little or no modification. Similarities between U.S. and Canadian standards, however, do not relieve the U.S. exporter of the obligation to meet the Canadian standard.

Standards regulations in Canada seek to follow the basic principle of the WTO and NAFTA and, as such, must not create unnecessary barriers to trade. To reduce such barriers, NAFTA applies three basic principles to bilateral trade:

  • Testing facilities and certification bodies are treated in a nondiscriminatory manner.
  • Federal standards-related measures will be harmonized to the greatest extent possible.
  • Greater openness will be provided in the regulatory process.

National Standards System
Canada's National Standards System
(NSS) develops, promotes, and implements standards in Canada. The NSS includes more than 400 organizations accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. These organizations are involved in several activities, such as: standards development, product testing and quality (conformity assessment), product or service certification, and environmental management and production systems registration.

Standards Council of Canada
As a federal Crown corporation, the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) coordinates standardization activities in Canada. The organization reports to Parliament through the Minister of Industry and oversees Canada's National Standards System. The SCC is comprised of representatives from both the federal and provincial governments as well as from a wide range of public and private interests. It prescribes policies and procedures for developing National Standards of Canada, coordinates Canada's participation in the international standards system, and accredits more than 400 organizations involved in standards development, product or service certification, testing and management systems registration activities in Canada. The SCC is independent of government, although it remains partially financed by public funds.

The SCC does not develop standards itself, nor does it conduct any conformity assessments. Rather, under its mandate to coordinate and oversee the efforts of the National Standards System, the SCC accredits testing and certification organizations to conduct conformity assessments and reviews of the standards submitted by standards development organizations for approval as National Standards of Canada.

Standards Organizations

There are four accredited standards development organizations (SDOs) in Canada: the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB), and the Bureau de Normalisation du Québec (BNQ). The CSA and ULC are private sector organizations covering a wide variety of commercial goods and services. The CGSB and BNQ cover areas related to the activities of the Canadian federal and Quebec provincial government respectively. Each of these organizations develops standards through committees representing various interests. SDOs may submit standards to the SCC to be recognized as National Standards of Canada.

The websites of these four organizations, listed in the product and service certification section of this document, provide information to assist companies looking to keep up with current developments. Companies should become familiar with the development process, especially the proposal stage. Most importantly, interested companies should become familiar with the members of the specific committees and the experts responsible for the relevant product or industry sector. This will enable them to learn of new standards at the earliest time possible.

Standards organizations in the United States and Canada continue to work cooperatively in the development of joint standards and have made progress in several areas. For example, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute and the CSA have harmonized performance standards into a single North American standard for air conditioners and heat pumps, packaged water chillers, and water-source heat pumps. Similarly, UL and CSA have established common electrical safety standards for air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigerant motor-compressors.

NIST Notify U.S. Service
Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to report to the WTO all proposed technical regulations that could affect trade with other Member countries. Notify U.S. is a free, web-based e-mail subscription service that offers an opportunity to review and comment on proposed foreign technical regulations that can affect your access to international markets. Register online at: https://tsapps.nist.gov/notifyus/data/index/index.cfm

Conformity Assessment

Product testing, known as conformity assessment, is usually carried out by a testing and certification organization or laboratory that has been accredited to conduct the test that certifies the product's conformity with the applicable standard. All regulated products must be tested and certified. The Standards Council accredits six types of conformity assessment organizations:

  • testing and calibration laboratories;
  • management system certification bodies;
  • personnel certification bodies;
  • product and service certification bodies;
  • inspection bodies; and
  • greenhouse gas validation and verification bodies.

Product and Service Certification

U.S. manufacturers and exporters should determine what standards are applicable to their products and services. If certification is required, it generally must be obtained before the goods are imported into Canada. The process can be time-consuming and, therefore, certification should be one of the first steps taken to establish an export market in Canada.

For U.S. exporters unsure of Canadian certification requirements, the first step is to contact the SCC directly in order to determine: (1) what testing is required, and (2) what organizations are accredited to conduct that testing and certification. For many products, U.S. exporters will learn that a U.S. laboratory has been accredited (see next section below) and the manufacturer needs to only submit the product to one lab instead of spending the time and money to have the product tested by both a U.S. and a Canadian lab.

CSA International, the conformity assessment and product certification organization in the CSA Group, and the other three standards development organizations, ULC, CGSB, and BNQ, are engaged in conformity assessment and product certification.

CSA International –
A database containing a complete list of products that CSA certifies for Canada can be accessed at the company’s website: http://www.csa.ca

A database containing a complete list of products that ULC certifies for Canada can be accessed at the company’s website: http://www.ulc.ca/

Underwriters Laboratories in the United States (UL) and CSA have a memorandum to accept each other's test results. However, each issues its own certification marks.

CGSB A database containing a complete list of products that CGSB certifies for Canada can be accessed at the company’s website: http://www.ihs.com/products/industry-standards/organizations/cgsb/index.aspx

BNQ – A database containing a complete list of products and services that BNQ certifies for Canada can be accessed at the company’s website: http://www.bnq.qc.ca/


The relevant Canadian authority must accredit testing and certification organizations that conduct conformity assessment, which in most cases is the SCC. The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) offers accreditation to over 300 mostly Canadian laboratories that conduct scientific testing in a variety of subjects and program specialty areas.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides that testing facilities, inspection agencies, and certification bodies of the United States, Canada and Mexico may be accredited in another NAFTA country without obligation to establish facilities in the other country.  Thus, NAFTA allows U.S. exporters to get "one-stop shopping" product approval for both the United States and Canada by submitting their product to only one organization in order to get product certification for both countries. This eliminates the time and expense of obtaining separate certifications for each market.  Numerous U.S. testing and certification organizations have received accreditation from the SCC.  A complete list of these organizations is available on the website of the Standards Council of Canada: http://www.scc.ca/en/programs/product_cert/index.shtml.

Provincial regulations, however, do not fall under the NAFTA accreditation framework. U.S. companies faced with difficulties in obtaining provincial approvals should consult with the U.S. Commercial Service to determine the nature of the problem.

Publication of Technical Regulations

The Standards Council operates Canada's WTO standards Enquiry Point. The Enquiry Point provides a current database of all current Canadian standards and regulations and makes them available to Canada's trading partners. See http://www.scc.ca/en/programs/information/standards_alert.shtml as well, businesses can register for the Standards Alert program to receive updated information on regulatory changes in their business areas.

NIST Notify U.S. provides a similar function in the United States. It is a free web-based e-mail subscription service that offers an opportunity to review and comment on proposed foreign technical regulations that can affect your access to international markets.

Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) including the United States and Canada are required under the World Trade Organization Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade to report proposed technical regulations that may affect trade to the WTO Secretariat, who in turn distributes them to all WTO Members. As well, any proposed regulatory change in Canada is listed in the Canada Gazette. U.S. companies can submit comments to the Government of Canada on proposed changes, especially if they are likely to constitute a trade barrier.

Persons who plan to comment on a Canadian (or any other foreign) regulation should contact the U.S. National Centre for Standards and Certification (NSCSI) for guidance. If there is insufficient time to review and comment on the regulation, NCSCI staff will request an extension of the comment period. For more information on NCSCI services for U.S. exporters to Canada, see the NCSCI website.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's Trade Compliance Center also serves as a point of contact for U.S. companies to submit information on a foreign trade barrier or unfair trade practice they have encountered that is limiting their ability to export or compete internationally.

Labeling and Marking

The Canadian federal Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act requires that all labels be bilingual in English and French and that the following information appear on the package/label of consumer goods sold in Canada:

  • Product Identity Declaration: describes a product's common or generic name, or its function.  The declaration must be in both English and French.
  • Net Quantity Declaration: must be expressed in metric units of volume when the product is a liquid or a gas, or is viscous; or in metric units of weight when the product is solid or by numerical count.  Net quantity may also be expressed in other established trade terms.
  • Dealer's Name and Principal Place of Business: where the prepackaged product was manufactured or produced for resale. In general, a name and address sufficient for postal delivery is acceptable. This information can be in either English or French.

The agency responsible for inspection of imports, the Canada Border Services Agency, also requires an indication of the country of origin, such as "Made in the USA," on several classes of imported goods.  Goods not properly marked cannot be released from Canada Customs until suitably marked.

The Province of Quebec requires that all products sold in that province be labeled in French and that the use of French be given equal prominence with other languages on any packages or containers.  The Charter of the French Language requires the use of French on product labeling, warranty certificates, product manuals, and instructions for use, public signs and written advertising. The Office Québécois de la langue Française (Quebec Office of the French Language) website provides guidance on these requirements.

U.S. exporters of textile and apparel should check the website of Industry Canada for specific labeling requirements. Food exporters should check the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising.

Exporters should also be aware that Canada's Processed Products Regulations prescribe standard container sizes for a wide range of processed fruit and vegetable products.

Finally, Industry Canada is charged with ensuring that any claims about a product being "environmentally-friendly" are accurate and in compliance with relevant legislation. In general, environmental claims that are ambiguous, misleading or irrelevant, or that cannot be substantiated, should not be used. In all cases, environmental claims should indicate whether they are related to the product itself or to the product's packaging materials.  The Canadian government has issued a set of guiding principles governing the use of environmental labeling and advertising, which may be obtained by contacting Industry Canada.


The U.S. Commercial Service Canada point of contact on standards matters is:

Doug Jacobson
Deputy Principal Commercial Officer
U.S. Commercial Service
U.S. Consulate General Toronto
Tel: (416) 595-5412, ext. 236; Fax: (416) 595-5419
E-mail: Doug.Jacobson@trade.gov
Website: http://www.buyusa.gov/canada

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Trade Agreements

Canada's main trade agreement of significance to U.S. exporters is the North American Free Trade Agreement.  On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force among the United States, Canada and Mexico.  All remaining duties and quantitative restrictions were eliminated, as scheduled, on January 1, 2008.  NAFTA has created the world’s largest free trade area, which now links 453 million people producing $17 trillion worth of goods & services and accounts for approximately 26 percent of the world’s total GDP.

NAFTA has become one of the leading international trade agreements, resulting in significant increases in trade and investment among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Each day, the NAFTA countries conduct nearly $1.9 billion in trilateral trade.  The United States had $918 billion in total two-way goods trade with NAFTA countries during 2010. Goods exports totaled $412 billion; Goods imports totaled $506 billion.

For further information, please refer to the “North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)” at the Office of the United States Trade Representative Webpage:  http://www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/north-american-free-trade-agreement-nafta

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Web Resources

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