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Trade liberalisation and overall relationship

30 - Agreement with the US on standards and norms, consumer protection

Grade: B
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 13/20
Scorecard 2010/11: B (13/20)

Europeans are generally united to negotiate harmonisation of norms and regulations with the US, and have met occasional success, but they face increased global competition.

It is critical that Europeans actively negotiate common regulations, standards and norms with Americans. It helps protect European consumers, extends trade and business opportunities for European firms, and creates a common normative power vis-à-vis third countries, in particular China. This objective, however, runs into various obstacles, from divergent social and cultural preferences to entrenched commercial interests.

In 2010, some of the efforts to harmonise regulation on both sides of the Atlantic paid off. In December, the EU and the US signed an important memorandum of understanding on e-health (harmonisation of electronic health records and education programmes for IT and health professionals), in the context of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) – a bilateral body which aims at removing non-tariff barriers to trade through increased regulatory cooperation. But, on other issues, efforts fell short. Results are slow to materialise on consumer protection (product safety, exchange of information on scams or dangerous products for recalls, etc.) and non-existent on food issues, which remain among the hardest to tackle. Indeed, the TEC process largely stalled in 2010 on the issue of bleached chickens, a practice that is forbidden in Europe. More generally, social and cultural approaches are most divergent on food issues, and neither side has made progress in addressing them – whether the ban on genetically modified meat in Europe or the ban on European beef because of mad-cow disease or on many dairy products because Americans don't accept European standards.

With increased international competition, Europeans and Americans should step up their efforts to benefit their economies and define global norms.