Think Piece

US Efforts to Ensure that Regulation Does Not Present Trade Barriers

November 2015
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Making domestic regulation more coherent and expanding cooperation between regulators has the promise of lowering the unnecessary costs of regulation for companies and consumers and thus translating into greater economic output for national economies. At a time when global economic growth has been slowing, policymakers are renewing their interest in reducing trade barriers from regulation. At the multilateral level, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has successfully completed the negotiation for the Agreement on Trade Facilitation and the new Information Technology Agreement. At the regional level, regulatory issues have been on the table in the negotiations for the Atlantic and Pacific trade agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations were given greater impetus in June 2015 when the United States enacted new fast track trade negotiating authority.

The E15 Task Force on Regulatory Systems Coherence is examining the problems posed by differences in regulation and regulatory regimes across markets and considering alternative approaches that could be taken by governments and the business community to reduce regulatory barriers to trade. To assist those deliberations, this study looks at US approaches, on top of trade liberalisation negotiations, for reducing trade barriers arising from domestic and foreign regulations. Introducing the problem of optimising regulation, this study examines the recent experience of the US government in carrying out programs to reduce the impact of regulations on US economic growth and on exports and imports of goods and services. The study goes on to examine US government efforts to cooperate with other governments on mutual regulatory challenges.

As close observers have noted, European Union-US regulatory cooperation is now being pursued on multiple fronts more ambitiously than ever before. Yet so far these efforts have failed to achieve a standardised process for cooperative regulation on an ongoing basis. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations provide an opportunity to strengthen regulatory cooperation, but, at present, both sides of the Atlantic are moving with insufficient boldness and imagination. Through a comparison of the transatlantic initiatives addressing regulatory trade barriers with the across-the-board initiatives, the study shows that the geographic component is critical to gaining buy-in of busy officials. The geographic cooperation also succeeds in enlisting the support of the business community, which renders the project more practical and improves the likelihood of an economically useful outcome. More effective efforts to build in balanced participation by economic and social actors is important for future public support of regulatory cooperation initiatives.

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