Trilateral Cooperation Charter—Can We Count on Assurances of No Harmonization?April 21, 2009
The Trilateral Cooperation Charter, or TCC, is an agreement signed in 2004 by Mexico, Canada, and the US. Its purpose is to increase communication, collaboration, and the exchange of information among the three countries in the areas of drugs, biologics, medical devices, food safety and nutrition—in theory, an exchange of “best practices.”
The exchange of “best practices” has increased the efficiency of tracking deceptive claims, enforcement strategies, methods of investigation, and ways of gathering information. Timely community outreach has also increased due to the awareness created through the constant flow of information among the three countries. According to FDA, opening the line of communication with Canada and Mexico and creating relationships has been very beneficial in controlling false claims.
The overriding concern is the possibility of a “harmonized standard” for food and drugs. Currently, Mexico’s food quality and nutritional supplements are less regulated than in the US; Canada’s are more regulated. If supplements are regulated more heavily, as in Canada, will American consumers’ right to choose or their access to alternative treatments be jeopardized?
The FDA have offered assurances that there is no current discussion of harmonization of policies or laws though their actions appear to conflict with those assurances. The FDA does try to harmonize with Japan and the European Union with regard to certain pharmaceutical and veterinary drugs. FDA also participates in the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is establishing international standards and guidelines regarding food.
The TCC is divided into four working groups, including MUCH, the Mexico–US–Canada Health Fraud Group. MUCH takes compliance actions against companies whose actions the group considers to be false or misleading. In its first eighteen months, MUCH took 700 compliance actions against companies advertising weight loss claims that MUCH considered misleading.
The long-term concern is that TCC along with the NAFTA and CAFTA treaties will lead to a North American Union, similar to the European Union (EU). In the EU, citizens have limited healthcare options and little to say about their healthcare decisions. AAHF urges every citizen to join with us in keeping a watchful eye on TCC. Your healthcare may be at stake.