Canada - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers

Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.

Last published date: 2020-08-03

Technical regulations and standards specify a product’s characteristics (such as size, functions, and performance), how it is labeled or packaged, and testing and certification requirements before it can enter a country’s market. These measures should serve legitimate public policy goals, but the requirements can be problematic when they are overly restrictive or discriminatory and are used to inhibit trade. In cases where they are more trade-restrictive or burdensome than necessary, they are technical barriers to trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade and our free trade agreements set rules aimed at preventing and addressing such barriers.

Identifying and Reporting TBTs to the United States Government

The United States Department of Commerce’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program is a vital part of the United States government’s efforts to reduce unfair foreign government-imposed trade barriers, including TBTs.

Barriers (tariff and non-tariff) U.S. companies face when exporting may include:

· Particularly high tariffs for certain products;

· Restrictions on selling to the government of the country;

· Import licensing requirements;

· Anti-dumping and countervailing duty measures;

· Product bans;

· Any quarantine measures for agricultural products;

· Foreign governments that prohibit participation in the rule-making process;

· Rules that discriminate against U.S. products or are unnecessarily trade-restrictive; and

· Rules that are inconsistent with relevant international standards.

What should you do when you identify a TBT?

For assistance with non-tariff barriers related to trade agreement non-compliance, such as standards and technical regulations-related barriers (i.e., technical barriers to trade), import licensing requirements, and government procurement and investment issues, contact the United States Department of Commerce’s Trade Agreements Compliance Program at, (202) 482-1191, or

Provide the following information from your organization to help assess the barrier:

· A translated copy of the technical regulation.

· Identification of the problematic areas, and explanation of why they are problematic.

· Background on how the standards and procedures differ from those to which your organization complies.

· Information about how your organization may be negatively affected, including the dollar value if possible.

Possible options for resolution

Seeking voluntary compliance through relevant trade agreements, diplomatic resources, and advocacy from high-level officials is the preferred option to remove trade barriers in a commercially meaningful time frame. The action plan will be tailored to the case and country, and always in concert with the reporting company/industry.

Resolving TBTs at the WTO

The TBT Committee meets three times a year and USTR leads the United States delegation to engage trading partners to remove specific TBTs, by raising these barriers either bilaterally or on the floor in front of other WTO members. This process gives a chance for the United States’ trading partners to come into compliance.

Import Tariffs

Although Canada eliminated tariffs on all industrial and most agricultural products imported from the United States under the terms of NAFTA, tariffs and tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) remain in place on dairy and poultry tariff lines. Canada announced the elimination of MFN tariffs on baby clothing and athletic equipment (valued at C$76 million annually) in its 2013 federal budget. Canada proposed to permanently eliminate tariffs on mobile offshore drilling units in its 2014 federal budget.

Restrictions on U.S. Seeds Exports

For many major field crops, Canada’s Seeds Act generally prohibits the sale or advertising for sale in Canada, or import into Canada, of any variety of seed that is not registered with Canada’s Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Canada’s variety registration gives CFIA an oversight role in maintaining and improving quality standards for grains in Canada. The registration is designed to facilitate and support seed certification and the international trade of seed; verify claims made, which contributes to a fair and accurate representation of varieties in the marketplace; and to facilitate varietal identity, trait identity and traceability in the marketplace to ensure standards are met. However, there are concerns that the variety registration system is slow, cumbersome and disadvantages U.S. seed and grain exports to Canada. The USMCA includes a commitment to discuss issues related to seed regulatory systems. The United States will continue to discuss with Canada steps to modernize and streamline Canada’s variety registration system.

Cheese Compositional Standards

Canada’s regulations on compositional standards for cheese limit the amount of dry milk protein concentrate (MPC) that can be used in cheese making, reducing the demand for U.S. dry MPCs. The United States continues to monitor the situation with these regulations for any changes that could have a further adverse impact on U.S. dairy product exports.

Front-of-Package Labeling on Prepackaged Foods

In November 2016, Health Canada requested public and technical comments on its proposal to implement requirements for front-of-package (FOP) labeling on prepackaged foods deemed high in sodium, sugars, and saturated fat, and on updating requirements for other information on the front of food packages including certain claims and labeling of sweeteners. The approach under consideration uses nutrient thresholds to determine whether a food would be required to carry a FOP symbol. During this initial comment period, the U.S. Government and U.S. industry submitted comments to the government of Canada. Canada then issued proposed regulations on February 10, 2018. The U.S. Government submitted additional comments on the proposed regulations in April 2018. Canada has acknowledged receipt and bilateral discussions continue as of 2019. The United States acknowledged these responses in November 2018 and suggested that Canada adopt a fact-based approach, based on serving size. The United States met bilaterally with Canada at all three WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT Committee) meetings in 2019 to discuss the status of this proposed measure.

U.S. industry has expressed concerns that an interpretive FOP approach will negatively impact U.S. exports of processed foods and undermine free trade benefits under the NAFTA. The United States permits voluntary FOP labeling that meets the Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory requirements, including requirements governing the use of nutrient content claims to help ensure that interpretive terms (e.g., high, low) are used consistently for all types of food products and are not misleading. In 2019, U.S. exports of processed foods to Canada were valued at $12 billion.