Labeling. On November 30, the heads of government of Mexico, Canada and the United States (Enrique Peña Nieto, Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump respectively) signed the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement – renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The new treaty removes the restriction for these nations to impose unilateral front-of-package food labelling regulations, giving governments the power to legislate on the matter. For it to enter into force, the agreement must first be signed and ratified by the three national legislatures. In the case of Mexico, ratification will now depend on the vote of its Senate. The treaty is estimated to enter into force in the second half of 2019 or the first half of 2020.
In terms of the food sector, the final version of the USMCA saw the removal of the provision prohibiting signatory countries from implementing front-of-package labeling systems on food products and beverages. This means that once the USMCA comes into force, each government will have the freedom to legislate without any restrictions stipulated by this tripartite agreement.
After constant pressure from NGOs throughout the region, the delegations of the three countries finally decided not to include the U.S.-led proposal that sought to avoid the use of any symbol denoting potential health damage caused by the consumption of non-alcoholic foods or beverages, and thus limit the ability of the signatory countries’ governments to implement their own labeling systems.
Ratification of the treaty will now depend on the respective national legislatures. In Mexico, the treaty will be turned over to the Senate, where it will be voted on. Canada, for its part, will be able to, and is expected to, ratify it swiftly. Finally, the United States will wait until 2019 to do so in view of how the make-up of its Congress changed after the legislative elections last November 6. The treaty is estimated to enter into force in the second half of 2019 or the first half of 2020.