Standards in Canada: How to Overcome Barriers and Take Advantage of the Free Trade Agreement

It will soon be six months since the free trade regime came into force between Ukraine and Canada. How can Ukrainian exporters leverage the regime to get the highest possible advantage?

It is not a secret that after the abolition of tariff barriers, it is the non-tariff requirements that are sometimes rather difficult to overcome. Accordingly, the compliance of Ukrainian products with the regulatory requirements of the Canadian market becomes the key issue for exporters.

It is known that requirements for goods are usually issued in the form of standards and technical regulations. The former is voluntary, while the latter is mandatory to comply with. However, in Canada, one will not find such a clear division.

The standards in Canada can be conventionally divided into:

  1. Standards developed by standardization bodies;
  2. National standards;
  3. “Obligatory” standards. Right, don’t be surprised, I mean the obligatory standards.

Now, let’s take a detailed look. In Canada, nine organizations have an accreditation of the Standards Council of Canada to develop standards.

It is important that the Standards Council of Canada does not develop any standards. It accredits standardization organizations and compliance assessment bodies. However, the Council has the right to approve the standards as national standards of Canada (which, however, remain voluntary). There are currently around 3 thousand of such national standards.

Although the standardization organizations in Canada compete with each other, they have a certain specialization. 

For example, Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) is traditionally specialized in developing standards for public procurement, organic products, office equipment, fireproofing of textile products, etc. It was CGSB that developed the standard for Canada’s national flag.

This organization, by the way, has existed since 1934, and works based on the principles of self-sustainability without receiving any state funding.

Importantly, it is currently the only one of the nine Canadian standardization organizations whose standards can be obtained for free.

Canadian Standardization Association (CSA Group) is another influential Canadian standardization organization specializing in products like electrical appliances, construction materials, vehicles, etc. For example, CSA is the author of the Canadian Electrical Code – a collective name for the standards that set requirements for underground and terrestrial electricity distribution networks, street lighting, household appliances, etc.”

Standards become obligatory when they are referenced in Regulations of Canada.

The Regulations of Canada are somewhat similar in nature to by-laws in Ukraine – they detail and supplement the provisions of Laws (in Canada – Acts). For example, in addition to the Consumer Product Safety Act, about 35 Regulations were adopted.

Public authorities in Canada increasingly use standards when drafting Regulations – the standards (or their parts) are incorporated into Regulations and thus become mandatory.

According to recent estimates, there are references to approximately 1,000 standards in the Regulations at the federal level. Hundreds of standards are referenced in provincial-level Regulations.

As for the compliance assessment bodies, there are more than 400 of them in Canada. They are also accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

What does this mean for a Ukrainian exporter in practice?

The key question is “How to find out what requirements are put forward to your product?” The best way is to get in touch with a regulatory authority in Canada. Believe it or not, but this recommendation came from the Canadian regulatory authorities themselves. Our experience shows that requests are taken seriously and responses are sent by the authority within one to two weeks (depending on complexity of the request).

For example, medical equipment, toys, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, radiation equipment are managed by Health Canada. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is engaged in management of telecommunication equipment, and Transport Canada deals with vehicles and tires.

In addition, attention should also be paid to provincial-level requirements that may differ from those of the federal level.

For example, the requirements for electrical appliances are contained in the Canadian Electrical Code developed by the CSA and adopted at the federal and provincial levels (in ten provinces and three territories of Canada). However, there are additional requirements in Ontario (so-called “deviations”) outlined in the Ontario Electrical Safety Code.

Taking into account the existence of the Free Trade Agreement between Ukraine and Canada, many producers consider Canada as a hub for exports to North America or as a starting point for exports to the United States. In terms of technical regulation, this approach may be fully justified as many US and Canadian standards are harmonized or developed jointly.

Thus, CSA has the accreditation of the American National Standards Institute, and the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) is accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

Finally, it is worth remembering the famous phrase: where there is a will there is a way.

There are many more ways to export to Canada than reasons to be afraid of the Canadian standards. So, feel free to contact Canadian regulatory authorities, bring your products to the level of Canadian standards and expand your business horizons.

Author: Oleksandra Brovko, CUTIS Senior Trade and Investment policy expert

Source: European Pravda