Summary: The Veterinary Equivalence Agreement between the European Union and Canada should be formally signed on December 17, now that the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers has approved the proposal put forward by the European Commission. The Agreement will usher in mutual recognition of health and hygiene standards for livestock and animal products on either side of the Atlantic.

The objective of the Agreement, which has been on the negotiating table since February 1995, is to facilitate trade in live animals and animal products between the EU and Canada by establishing a mechanism for the recognition of equivalence of each other's health and hygiene measures. This will bring savings and more efficiency from veterinary inspection services. For products where equivalence is not yet recognised, the new pact sets out a programme of work towards the recognition and the trade conditions applicable in the interim. Commenting on the Agreement, European Commissioner for Agriculture Franz Fischler said "it is the result of long and difficult negotiations and, while facilitating trade, it will at the same time ensure the protection of public and animal health within both the EU and Canada". Under the terms of the Veterinary Equivalence Agreement, Canada recognises the principle of regionalisation of animal diseases within the EU, i.e. that an outbreak of disease in a defined and restricted region need not result in a ban on trade from the whole of the affected Member State or from other EU countries that are not...

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