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Amb. Miriam Sapiro: US-EU Trade Negotiations — A Race to the Top

By collaborating on high standards in bilateral and global markets, rather than competing, the U.S. and EU can support more job creation on both sides of the Atlantic.


As the United States and the EU struggle to defend their respective market shares around the world, both economies are beginning to realize the benefit of working together, where possible, as collaborators rather than competitors. Such an approach can support increased exports and jobs, as well as influence other countries to adopt good regulatory practices and more open standard-setting processes.

A primary goal of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is to align better the ways in which the United States and Europe develop their respective regulations and create standards, without sacrificing either side’s high level of health, safety, environmental and consumer protection. This effort has been mischaracterized as a “race to the bottom,” when in reality it is a “race to the top,” intended to promote high standards in bilateral and global markets.

Promoting greater regulatory compatibility in the right way can reduce unnecessary duplication of effort and costs. It can also make it easier for small and medium enterprises to expand and ship overseas because they often do not have the resources to maintain two assembly lines or build the same product to different US and EU specifications.

Sometimes this goal can be accomplished on a sector-by-sector basis – known as “vertical cooperation” — as is being done for such products as autos, chemicals, cosmetics, medical devices and pharmaceuticals. But there is also a strong need for greater “horizontal cooperation.” This means embodying key principles, such as transparency, stakeholder participation, and regulatory accountability, across the board in developing regulations and establishing sound regulatory practices.

Allowing adequate opportunities for public comment by all stakeholders, whether domestic or foreign, on proposed regulations gives regulators a wider perspective and can lead to more innovative and responsive decision-making. The EU’s recently released text for a proposed chapter on regulatory cooperation reflects a number of these elements and is an encouraging step forward. Likewise, opening up the standards development and certification processes to broader participation, regardless of residency, can help US and EU manufacturers and service providers collaborate to control costs and compete more effectively in other markets.

TTIP embodies the vision of improving regulatory cooperation without lowering high levels of health, safety, environmental and consumer protection. It also holds out the promise of creating stronger cooperation on global challenges, such as tackling anti-competitive behaviour from state-owned enterprises and harmful labour and environmental practices.

If the negotiation is successful, a more integrated transatlantic market of 800 million consumers will provide a significant economic boost, including improved competitiveness, increased exports and new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. It would place both the United States and the EU squarely at the forefront of efforts to advance broader market liberalization, prodding partners near and far to join forces.

The challenges are significant, but so are the potential benefits.

This column has been excerpted from The Geopolitical Impact of TTIP: A Transatlantic Fortress or an Open Platform? report, published by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in May 2015.

(Top image: Courtesy of Thinkstock)


Miriam Sapiro is a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution and a Principal at Summit Strategies International. Ambassador Sapiro served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2014, where she led negotiations and enforcement with countries in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Americas, and oversaw initiatives on services, investment, industrial competitiveness, intellectual property and innovation, labor and small business.




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