‘Regulatory co-operation between the US and Europe’

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

As part of Bertelsmann Stiftung’s ‘Transatlantic Thinkers’ series, David Vogel – Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley – examines the current political efforts for less regulation in transatlantic trade, which was the main focus of the latest EU-US summit.   

As the annual ‘Brussels Forum’ approaches – which brings together major figures from the spheres of politics, industry and ideas in the US and Europe – Vogel outlines the main opportunities for a common transatlantic agenda, providing a comprehensive overview of regulatory principles and traditions on both sides of the Atlantic, and delivering pointed recommendations on how Europe and the US could develop institutional mechanisms to promote better regulatory co-operation. 

He claims that, due to the economic importance of the EU and the US, whenever they adopt similar regulatory policies, these often become global standards. However, he argues that the WTO’s dispute- settlement mechanisms represent an inadequate vehicle for the promotion of international regulatory co-operation between the two, lacking authority and typically serving to exacerbate tensions. Similarly, co-operation on environmental issues is hampered by the fact that the US has failed to ratify several important international agreements, notably the Kyoto Protocol. 

Vogel believes that eliminating divergent protective regulations will be extremely difficult. He recommends that the EC and the US Office of Management and Budget seek to co-ordinate the way they go about BCA and risk assessments – and share the scientific and economic data they have developed for both. He also calls for more co-operation between EU and US regulatory agencies, including those dealing with food, drugs and chemical safety issues. 

Additionally, Vogel believes that regulatory co-operation could be strengthened through the promotion of similar voluntary corporate practices on both sides of the Atlantic. He suggests developing transatlantic product labels, including eco-labels for organic foods. He calls for increased transparency, recommending that American and European officials keep each other fully informed about new regulatory initiatives, and provide formal or informal mechanisms for participation in each other’s policy deliberations. He calls for existing non-trade tariff barriers to be comprehensively reassessed in the manner of Europe’s Cecchini report. 

Finally, Vogel suggests that increased transatlantic collaboration on the development of new technologies that address common problems – such as climate change – could facilitate economic co-operation. He declares that European and American officials must give increased priority to negotiating common international environmental agreements. 

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