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No written guarantee on EU vaccine shipments, says international trade minister – CBC.ca

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Minister of International Trade Mary Ng said she has received assurances that export controls on vaccines introduced by the European Union will not affect Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine orders. 

Testifying at the House of Commons trade committee Monday, Ng said the government received verbal assurances in phone conversations with EU officials that Canada’s shipments will not be disrupted.

Opposition MPs asked Ng why the government had not secured a more formal, written guarantee from the EU.

Ng said she spoke with EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the issue with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“I reiterated that Canada has advanced purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers in Europe, and we expect that those agreements be respected,” Ng said.

“Vice-President Dombrovskis provided strong reassurances that this mechanism will not delay vaccine shipments to Canada, and we both committed to continue to work together, as we have since the beginning of the pandemic.”

On Jan. 29, the European Commission introduced new export controls for the 27-member bloc, which requires member states to get authorization before they can export vaccine doses out of the EU.

The export controls have raised concerns that Canada’s advance purchase agreements may not be honoured, which would threaten the supply of vaccines coming into the country. Canada is not on a list of countries exempted from the controls.

WATCH Trade minister questioned on why Canada is not exempt from EU vaccine export controls:

Minister Mary Ng addresses Daniel Blaikie’s questions about how the European Union’s new export rules on COVID-19 vaccines are impacting Canada’s supply. 4:48

While Ng said Canada would prefer to get on that list, she did not elaborate on a pathway to do so. She repeatedly brought up that other countries such as the United States and Australia are also not exempt.

Ng said she spoke with the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium Sunday, Sophie Wilmès, who gave similar assurances that Canada’s advanced purchase agreements would be honoured.  The Pfizer vaccines Canada has ordered are being manufactured at a facility in Puurs, Belgium.

Conservative MP Ziad Aboultaif said the government should have pushed for a written guarantee. 

“There’s a term here — if it’s not in writing, [it] never happened. Do you agree?” Aboultaif asked.

Ng responded that she was confident in the assurances she had received.

“What I would say is that assurances by a vice-president and commissioner of the European Union, as well as the European Union president, to a prime minister, is a … good thing,” Ng said.

Few legal options, expert says

Assistant deputy minister for trade policy and negotiations at Global Affairs Canada, Steve Verheul told the committee that Canada does not have many mechanisms to challenge the new controls through CETA, the country’s free trade agreement with the European Union.

“On those particular [export control] measures, the EU is probably on solid ground,” he said.

WATCH Trade negotiator says Canada not yet ready to resort to retaliatory measures against EU:

Steve Verheul spoke with B.C. Liberal MP Randeep Sarai at the Commons International Trade committee on Monday. 2:16

Verheul also said officials are looking more closely at whether the exemption to the controls for certain countries was discriminatory, and said the issue may come up at the World Trade Organization. 

Ng said that the federal government would fight against protectionism, and continue to work with the European Union.

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Why You Can’t Just Order Baby Formula From Canada – Lifehacker

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Image for article titled Why You Can’t Just Order Baby Formula From Canada
Photo: The Toidi (Shutterstock)

With baby formula continuing to be in short supply, parents of infants are looking for creative ways to get their hands on that precious Enfamil—but a simple, seemingly ingenious solution that’s going viral right now will not work as described. The suggestion that’s spreading on Facebook and Twitter advises parents to go to Amazon and change their account’s country from the U.S. to Canada.

The claim is that if you do this, you will be rewarded with all kinds of baby formula-purchasing options—because Canada doesn’t have a major formula shortage. The problem, however, comes when you want to get the formula (or anything else) actually delivered from Amazon Canada. The company will only ship products within Canada, so unless you have a friend in Manitoba, it’s not going to work.

Amazon’s shipping restrictions page says:

Certain restrictions prevent us from shipping certain products to all geographical locations. Restrictions for specific items may require the purchaser to provide additional information in order to ship the item.

You might be able to find a third-party formula shipper on Amazon, but this is expensive in terms of shipping costs, and it might not be legal, depending on the kind of formula being imported.

The FDA’s role in all this

The larger issue of why the U.S. as a nation doesn’t import more baby formula is more complicated than Amazon’s rules. Only about 2% of the U.S.’s formula comes from foreign sources. February’s recall from major manufacturer Abbott threw off our delicate national formula supply chain, and correcting the problem presents some serious challenges.

If it was some other commodity, maybe more could have been imported quickly, but we’re particular about our baby formula. Formula has to meet the FDA’s nutritional standards and other requirements to be sold here. While European brands of formula generally meet or exceed the FDA’s nutritional requirements, (so much so that there’s a black market for foreign formula) the packaging and other aspects of the products are a different story.

The recall and FDA approval is only part of the story—the rest is economics.

Tariffs and dairy protection

In order to protect the U.S. dairy farming industry and U.S. formula manufacturers, the tariff on importing baby formula is set at 17.5% for most kinds of infant formula. The recently revamped NAFTA agreement actually raised the cost of importing Canadian formula, discouraging anyone from building a new plant there, and making it costly to import any excess from Canadian factories.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

While there’s no way to change tariffs quickly, the government is taking other steps to try to end the crisis. The FDA this week announced plans to ease the shortage through loosening up some of its rules (but not the ones covering nutritional requirements), and Abbot today announced its facility should be back online, with new safety standards in place, in a couple weeks.

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NS gas prices jump by 9.5 cents – CTV News Atlantic

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Tuesday was another record-breaking day for gas prices in Nova Scotia after they jumped by 9.5 cents overnight — just four days after they had reached $2 per litre in some parts of the province.

The minimum price of regular self-serve is now $2.08 per litre in the Halifax area, or Zone 1. The new maximum price is $2.10.

The biggest jump was in Cape Breton, or Zone 6, where the minimum price of regular self-serve gas is now $2.10 per litre. The maximum price is $2.12.

There were long lineups at some Nova Scotia gas stations Monday night after the Utility and Review Board announced that it would invoke its interrupter clause at midnight.

The price of diesel did not change Monday. However, the UARB said Tuesday that it would invoke the interrupter clause, and the price of diesel oil would be adjusted at midnight.

The price of gasoline won’t be affected by the adjustment.

The UARB said the price adjustments are “necessary due to significant shifts in the market price” of gasoline and diesel.

Gas prices are showing no signs of letting up as the average price in Canada tops $2 a litre for the first time.

Natural Resources Canada says the average price across the country for regular gasoline hit $2.06 per litre on Monday for an all-time high.

The average was a nine-cent jump from the $1.97 per litre record set last week, and is up about 30 cents a litre since mid-April.

Gas prices have been climbing steadily since late February when oil spiked to around US$100 a barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine. The price jumped to over US$110 per barrel last week.

Record-high gas prices fuel frustration

When Sam Vatcher saw the price at the pumps in Halifax this morning, she was shocked.

“I don’t know how anyone is going to drive anywhere,” said Vatcher.

The latest prices have SUV driver Bill Foster wondering how he will be able to afford fuel going forward.

“I’ve got to get kids to sports and I’ve got to get kids to school,” said Foster. “Other stuff is going to have to get cut out just to pay for gas.”

In addition to the conflict in Ukraine, gas analyst Patrick Dehaan says the high gas prices are also largely linked to the pandemic.

“Canadians and Americans’ global consumption plummeted along with oil prices,” said Dehaan. “To the degree that oil companies started shutting down production. That was the problem.”

Dehaan said, during the pandemic, oil production went offline. Then, as the economy reopened, Canadians started leaving their homes and travelling more.

“Global demand started going back up,” he explained. “But because of the shutdowns, we very quickly developed an imbalance between supply-and-demand that has grown over time.”

As a result, some feel Canadian consumers will move away from oil and gas in favour of electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle advocate Kurt Sampson says he tells his children every day, “when you are older, and when you grow up it will be the opposite. Everybody will be driving electric vehicles.”

Sampson has an app on his phone that tracks fuel savings. By switching to an electric vehicle and not purchasing gas, he is on pace to have yearly savings in the range of $8,000.

“Electric vehicles are cheaper to own and operate,” said Sampson. “If you do the long-term calculation, not just a sticker price, they will save you money. They are also better for the environment.”

Sampson said drivers are increasingly switching to electric vehicles, and with fuel prices continuing to climb, he expects the trend to increase even more in the coming years.

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Shortages of some baby formula in Quebec due to panic buying, U.S. supply issues

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MONTREAL — When Catherine Labrecque-Baker went to purchase hypoallergenic baby formula in mid-April for her six-month-old baby, her Quebec City pharmacist told her there was none left.

In response, Labrecque-Baker travelled to another pharmacy in the city and bought five times the amount she normally does. Then she started to stress as she fed her baby and watched her stockpile slowly shrink.

Her son has an intolerance to cow’s milk protein and relies on Alimentum, a product by American formula maker Abbott, which voluntarily recalled its products in February after four illnesses were reported in babies who had consumed powdered formula from its Michigan plant.

“What am I supposed to do?” Labrecque-Baker asked Monday in an interview. “I cried an entire night, wondering what will I do when I won’t have any more formula.”

The disruptions at Abbott, the United States’ largest formula maker, are causing supply issues for specific hypoallergenic formulas across Canada, according to Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

But in Quebec, parents are noticing shortages of other formulas on the province’s pharmacy shelves — a result of panic buying, Wasylyshen said.

“There’s a ripple effect,” she said in an interview Monday, referring to parents like Labrecque-Baker who are scooping up more formula than normal because they fear it will go out of stock.

“We don’t want to see a return to panic buying — that approach doesn’t help anyone,” Wasylyshen said. “Some of our retailers have put limitations in place in terms of what customers can purchase, just to make sure there’s enough for everyone.”

Abbott’s decision to shut its Michigan plant exacerbated ongoing supply chain disruptions among formula makers, leaving fewer options on store shelves across much of the United States. The company is one of only a handful that produce the vast majority of the U.S. formula supply, so Abbott’s product recall — involving brands Similac, Alimentum and EleCare — wiped out a large segment of the market intended for babies with allergies or intolerance to cow’s milk protein.

On Monday, Abbott said it has reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production at its Michigan factory, a key step toward easing a nationwide shortage.

Quebec is not facing the same kind of shortages as in the United States, but Wasylyshen said images of empty pharmacy shelves in the province started circulating online, causing anxiety.

The province’s Health Department on Monday said it’s working with Quebec’s association of pharmacy owners, the Association québécoise des pharmaciens propriétaires, to minimize the shortage’s impact.

“We are looking as far away as Europe to counter this lack of supply,” department spokesperson Marjorie Larouche said, adding that shortages are being noticed across Canada.

Marilie Beaulieu-Gravel of the pharmacy owners association said that after Abbott’s Alimentum formula disappeared from shelves, parents rushed to purchase Nutragimen, another hypoallergenic formula, made by Mead Johnson & Company.

“There isn’t a production issue with this product, but rather a domino effect,” Beaulieu-Gravel said Monday in an interview. “The demands for the products increase sharply and unexpectedly on the market.”

While Nutragimen products are expected to be back on shelves by mid-June, Beaulieu-Gravel said her association isn’t expecting the supply of Alimentum to return before the end of summer.

Meanwhile, some parents, including Labrecque-Baker, are left searching for formula everywhere, even online.

“I looked on Facebook Marketplace, on Kijiji … friends have been looking for me or giving me what they can,” Labrecque-Baker said. “This week, I spent $200 because I can’t wait and risk it. The more I can stock, the more days I can feed my child.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 17, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

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