Cablegate: Fda Bioterrorism Measures: Newfoundland Seeks

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Halifax 0027 and previous


2. (SBU) SUMMARY: The province of Newfoundland-Labrador
believes its exporters of fish and other perishable products
should get special consideration when the USG implements new FDA
border measures to combat bioterrorism. Newfoundland, which
depends heavily on its export of freshly caught and live seafood
to U.S. markets, believes that some of the proposed new
regulations would severely hamper this trade. Echoing the
concerns of the other Atlantic provinces (REFTEL), Newfoundland
is pressing for the USG to adopt a shorter time requirement for
notification of perishable shipments crossing the border.
Newfoundland is also seeking a rule change that would exempt its
large fish-processing companies from the "one physical location"
definition, as well as a reconsideration of the definition of
"originating country". (END SUMMARY)

3. (SBU) Newfoundland-Labrador's Minister of Fisheries made an
impromptu call on the CG on April 4 to personally relay her
province's apprehensions over future USG regulations emanating
from the Bioterrorism Act, which will have a significant impact
on the provinceQs lucrative export of freshly caught and live
seafood to the United States. Minister Yvonne Jones, who just
joined the cabinet of Premier Roger Grimes in February,
explained that Newfoundland has strong reasons for being
concerned about the new regulations because it is in a more
difficult position than any other Canadian province. Unlike its
three regional counterparts, Newfoundland's fishing industry is
the mainstay of the province, with a landed value of over C$1
billion annually. Of those products, approximately 70 to 80
percent are exported to the United States, making Newfoundland
extremely vulnerable to constraints in cross-border shipments.

4. (SBU) Unlike other Atlantic provinces, NewfoundlandQs
exporters must get their U.S.-bound perishable products first to
Nova Scotia by ocean ferry before sending them by truck overland
to the Maine-New Brunswick border. Severe weather conditions
often disrupt the ferry schedule, consequently increasing the
total transit time to the U.S. border. Minister Jones argued
that these conditions often make it impossible to estimate
arrival times of perishable fish products, and that exporters
would be unable to adhere to new regulations requiring a strict
24-hour advance notification for shipments arriving at the U.S.

5. (SBU) The Newfoundland government, more so than its regional
counterparts, is therefore making a strong case that the FDA
allow for two categories of products---perishable and non-
perishable---in determining pre-notification time of imports,
allowing shorter advance notification for perishable ones.
Minister Jones also pointed out that the requirement that a U.S.
agent submit the advance prior notice was additionally
cumbersome, but she acknowledged that most Newfoundland shippers
could comply.

6. (SBU) Another major problem, the Minister explained, is that
the fish-processing industry in Newfoundland is in the hands of
a few very large companies which operate facilities in several
different locations in the province. Often these facilities
operate under different company names, reflecting the product
they produce. As such, each would require separate registration
as proposed by the draft FDA regulations. The Minister is
proposing an amendment to those regulations that would modify
the "one physical location" definition to allow for multi-plant
operators. This would enable the large parent companies to
continue to co-mingle their products regardless of where in the
province they were produced.

7. (SBU) Finally, Newfoundland would have unique difficulties
with the draft requirement concerning identification of
originating country. Due to ongoing declines in Newfoundland's
groundfishery, companies have to rely on purchases of raw fish
product "on the water" from vessels flagged in a variety of
countries, predominately Russia and Norway. All the raw fish,
however, is handled and processed the same way as domestic
supplies, subject to the same quality control and safety
measures. Consequently, the Minister made a strong case that
exports be permitted to identify Canada as the originating
country, instead of listing the country under which the
harvesting vessel is flagged.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: NewfoundlandQs predicament, although perhaps
a bit more dire than that of the other three Atlantic provinces,
reflects similar concerns about the potentially devastating
impact of new bioterrorism regulations on Canadian perishable
exports to U.S. markets. All four Atlantic premiers have signed
a joint letter to Deputy PM Manley urging Ottawa to lobby for
the necessary rule changes with his U.S. interlocutors. The
Newfoundland provincial government has also delivered its
concerns directly to FDA in the form of a letter signed by the
Minister on March 31. Newfoundland now joins Nova Scotia in
having lobbied the CG directly in the hope of getting the
Ambassador to weight in with senior FDA officials on these
proposed modifications. CG responded that the Ambassador and
the U.S. Mission in Canada are aware of these Canadian concerns,
which the Fisheries Council of Canada and the Nova Scotia Fish
PackersQ Association have also raised in the form of feedback to
the FDA, and that we are confident that FDA will take into
consideration the modifications proposed by these Canadian
organizations and by the affected provinces.

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