Europe Seeks to Coordinate Regulation with U.S. ; E.U. Trade Official Calls for Creation of Council as Part of Trans- Atlantic Pact

Article excerpt

A proposal by Karel De Gucht, the European Union trade commissioner, appeared mostly aimed at reaching a joint position on the kinds of rules and standards that would be drawn up in the future.

The European Union's top trade official, in one of the first concrete proposals in the trade negotiations with the United States, called on Thursday for a new trans-Atlantic group that would coordinate the work of United States and European regulatory agencies.

The proposal, in a speech made in Prague by Karel De Gucht, the trade commissioner, comes as the Union and the United States are trying to map out the ambition and scope of the negotiations for a potentially sweeping trade pact.

Those talks, which began in July, have been delayed by the partial shutdown of the United States government, which caused the cancellation of a second round of talks that were to begin in Brussels. The negotiating teams are already butting heads over existing industry regulations and standards in Europe, which Michael Froman, the U.S. trade representative, sharply criticized last week.

Mr. De Gucht delivered a sharp retort on Thursday to Mr. Froman's criticism, warning the United States that "a beauty contest will flatter no one" and that "neither side will be successful if it seeks to impose its system on the other."

Since last year, business groups on both sides of the Atlantic have strongly lobbied for a regulatory oversight group that would have the authority to continue to ensure that any new or existing United States or European regulations are compatible. But European officials have warned that an oversight group must not become a forum purely for business interests or deregulation efforts.

Mr. De Gucht's proposal for such a group, which he called the Regulatory Cooperation Council, appeared mostly aimed at reaching a joint position on the kinds of rules and standards that would be drawn up in the future, rather than revamping those currently in force, like ones that now restrict biotechnology products and have long frustrated American business interests. Even so, Mr. De Gucht was enforcing one of the top goals that Europe shares with the United States: to put pressure on emerging economic superpowers like China to accept standards developed by the European Union and United States on products and services as global norms.

"The council would monitor the implementation of commitments made and consider new priorities for regulatory cooperation," Mr. De Gucht said in a speech delivered to a conference in Prague organized by the Aspen Institute. "In some cases, it could also ask regulators or standards bodies to develop regulations jointly that could then have a good chance of becoming international standards."

The regulatory council, Mr. De Gucht said, should be part of a trans-Atlantic effort that "promotes greater compatibility of our regimes and accelerates the development of global approaches."

Neither Mr. De Gucht in his speech nor his staff in discussing it gave any examples of specific industry sectors where the council would jointly make rules or develop standards in the future. But Mr. De Gucht did say on Thursday that an overall trade agreement should support cooperation on automotive technical regulations and the way medical devices are regulated. …


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