(June 16) As the North American marketplace becomes one, it is more important than ever that government services in each country facilitate trade.

This is starting to happen for government-run destination inspection services, which are vital to dispute resolution between traders in all three countries.

Mexico is starting a government-run destination inspection service that is expected to be operating by the end of the year. Government officials there are modeling the service in the pattern of the U.S. inspection service. In fact, five inspectors hired by Mexico trained at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s facility in Fredericksburg, Va.

The inspection service will require years of development to build trust, but it has begun with the right plan.

Canada also is in the process of fine-tuning its inspection system to be more responsive to industry needs, including improving timeliness of inspections and testing the idea of changing enforcement parameters so inspectors don’t bear the burden of detaining loads that are out of grade.

That would make the Canadian system more like that of the U.S. and increase the usefulness of destination inspections. In the U.S., technology is expected to create gains in efficiency, with portable computers expected to speed inspections and increase their transparency to all parties.

In the wake of USDA reforms in the past four years, the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, Washington, D.C., and other industry groups will lobby Congress for ongoing and permanent funding of the USDA’s facility in Fredericksburg.

In the years ahead, the inspection services of the U.S. and Canada should work together to harmonize commodity grades. Both agencies should lend their resources and expertise to the startup of the Mexican inspection service.

Yet it should be remembered that the most basic goal of all in the inspection service is integrity.

Ironically, recent improvements in the USDA’s service would not have been possible had it not been for the Hunts Point bribery scandal of 1999.

So beyond the great leap forward in technology, the government inspection service must give sufficient attention to improve the working conditions, training and pay of inspectors to ensure that what has been fixed doesn’t break again.