TTIP could make regulation better and more efficient—cutting costs for consumers and industry, writes Csilla Magyar.
Csilla Magyar is director of EU trade and chemicals policy at The Dow Chemical Company.
We live in a world of growing environmental and societal challenges, including the need to feed a growing population and the increasingly pressing problems of energy efficiency and water security. Rapidly emerging technologies, however, provide a growing optimism that scientific ingenuity can help us to overcome these hurdles and deliver more sustainable growth.
The chemical industry provides materials for everything from water treatment to innovative solutions that help to reduce food waste, protect crops and boost yield.
To transform good ideas into great products, a predictable and innovation-friendly policy environment, a rigorous and transparent regulatory framework and open trade are needed. Together, these mean that innovation can flourish and reach the markets where they are most needed in the form of goods, services or intellectual property.
In reality however, besides tariffs, trade often experiences many non-tariff barriers including cumbersome customs procedures and regulatory measures that hinder efficient supply chains and impede innovation and competitiveness; reducing consumer choice and making it harder to offer global solutions to global problems.
For this reason, bilateral and multilateral initiatives such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are needed to enhance trade liberalisation and address regulatory collaboration.
Taking TTIP as an example, regulators from both the EU and the US have the same mandate: to set and enforce standards which ensure that products and services are safe, and to protect people and the environment. When they do not work together, growth and innovation are slower, and exporters on both continents can find themselves facing unnecessarily long approval processes – for products already tested, sold and used safely in their respective markets.
Time to collaborate
Using best practices from both sides of the Atlantic would minimise regulatory duplications and costs that impede innovation and investment.
This would benefit business innovation, consumers and regulators. Examples that would be welcomed by the chemical industry include collaboration in scientific evaluations and risk assessment methodologies, and the use of common data sets – for example promoting the UN Global List of Classified Chemicals as a common classification inventory.
Collaboration could also include an early joint review of emerging issues, especially where the science has not yet been established. This would support exciting new science and product developments within an appropriate and responsible framework.
If cooperation was grounded in common scientific evidence, this would also help to accelerate regulatory decision-making. A mechanism for EU-US cooperation on transatlantic regulatory issues could potentially be set up under TTIP as a transatlantic regulatory cooperation body that would guide cooperation between the EU and US regulatory agencies and provide a benchmark for other international approaches to regulatory cooperation.
This is sorely needed: exciting new technologies are emerging rapidly and from many quarters, but rightly require close regulatory scrutiny. It is therefore important that such a body would focus not only on current standards, but also on emerging scientific issues with regulatory relevance. This could be done by formally engaging with recognised science experts from both sides of the Atlantic from national authorities, industry and NGOs. Such experts could either be part of the independent joint regulatory cooperation body or be consulted on an ad-hoc basis.
A common understanding of scientific evidence would increase prospects for agreement on common regulatory definitions and standards. Regulators would be able to better achieve their mandates, as it would allow them to become more efficient in addressing real risks, and thus be effective in enforcing their laws.
Such cooperation provisions would not guarantee or bind national regulatory outcomes. It would simply mean that regulators on both sides of the Atlantic could consider the scientific opinions and conclusions of the relevant scientific experts commissioned by the joint regulatory cooperation body.
EU and US regulators could then compare results and outcomes, identify differences in assessment methodologies and seek alignment. The long-term objective would be mutual acceptance of each other’s assessments as a basis for decision-making.
This would foster a regulatory environment that recognises good risk management practice, based on consistent use of sound scientific evidence. This would do much to remove regulatory uncertainty and to promote an attractive innovation and investment climate.
Ultimately better regulation means an explicit risk management framework that can reach balanced and proportionate objectives, that encourages and does not restrict industrial innovation and growth and at all times supports public confidence in high standards for safety, public health and the environment. Regulatory collaboration can do much to support this objective in the interests of all who care about the use of science to address our most pressing challenges.