Cablegate: Mixed Predictions On Bta Enforcement Impact On Quebec

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: A. OTTAWA 000224
B. OTTAWA 000489

1. Summary: As the August 12 deadline for BTA enforcement draws
near, a report in the Quebec City daily "Le Soleil" claims that
most small Quebec agricultural export companies have yet to
comply with the BTA requirements for registration and are
unprepared for prior notice. The article said that exporters
will encounter some nasty surprises when the rules are fully
implemented next month, and the provincial economy will suffer
as a result. the great majority of large producers, however,
have already registered or are awaiting accreditation from FDA.
ConGen follow up with key players, however, gave a mixed
picture. End Summary

2. Claude Tardif, Vice President of the Quebec Exporters and
Manufacturers (Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Quebec (MEQ)),
told "Le Soleil" and Consulate, that he believes that only 35%
of small and medium-sized exporting companies were currently
accredited in accordance with the BTA. "There is still some
resistance," he said "but one does not fool around with FDA."
The larger food producers such as Lassonde and Aliments Carriere
have been ready for months, said Tardif. The Quebec trucking
industry appears to be better prepared, with 95% of their
exporting members (the majority of which belong to large-scale
transportation companies) already registered. MEQ provides
assistance for training and coaching related to various
complicated customs issues. As an organization, Tardif told us,
the MEQ was more concerned about the C-TPAT cargo security and
customs clearance standards than with BTA. Tardif's grim view
was echoed by Garth White of the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business (Federation canadienne de l'entreprise
independante (FCEI)), a fifth of whose 105,000 members are in
Quebec. "Le Soleil" quoted White as saying that a large
majority of FCEI members are not prepared and pointed a finger
at Ottawa for failing to effectively inform members. These
producers, he predicted, will complain when U.S. Customs truly
takes action next month.

4. Quebec agricultural organizations, however, were more
sanguine. Director Andre Coutu of the Quebec Agri-Food Export
Club (Club export agro-alimentaire du Quebec) said that his
members are set. "No one finds it amusing, it's a lot of
paperwork. Inspections are more frequent but we have no choice.
Washington is in charge." Likewise, Andre Turenne, Director of
the Quebec Produce Marketing Association (Association quebecoise
de la distribution des fruits et legumes), said that most of
their members are in compliance. The perception among QPMA
members is that the BTA is not an issue. In his view, Ottawa did
a good job at getting the word out among members, many of which
attended several meetings with U.S. and Quebec officials.
Turenne, however, he said the association is still highly
concerned about border delays, especially with seasonal exports
and sees potential problems connected to the prior notice
mechanism. He noted that there was only a single Virginia-based
center for prior notice, and wondered whether it would be enough
to meet the demand.

5. Monique Trudel at the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food judged that the situation was under control
among Quebec produce growers. She told us that there was no
sign of any problems in the short term, and eventual issues will
be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. "Le Soleil's" article
elicited little or no reaction at the Ministry, she stated. The
Ministry could not provide input on the status of transport
companies, but assumed the figures quoted in the article were
correct. She said that she had seen no evidence in support of
the charge that Ottawa had failed to effectively circulate
information on the new rules.

6. Comment: Like any significant procedural change, the
efficacy of public information campaign and of the BTA system
itself will be evident only when it goes fully into effect.
Given the time sensitive nature of agricultural produce,
however, any glitches will result in significant economic loss
to Quebec producers. End Comment.


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