International Regulatory Competition and Coordination: Perspectives on Economic Regulation in Europe and the United States

By William W. Bratton; Joseph McCahery et al. | Go to book overview

10
Competition among rules in the single European market

STEPHEN WOOLCOCK1


I. THE ISSUES AND WHY COMPETITION AMONG RULES IS IMPORTANT

The balance or tension between harmonization and competition among national rules is central to the development of the EC and the Single European Market (SEM). The approach to market regulation within the Single European Market embodied a constructive ambiguity. Some national regulators/governments saw the establishment of a single market as a means of retaining control over markets in the face of increased internationalization of production and economic interdependence which was undermining the viability of national regulatory policies in a number of sectors. National governments and regulators were aware that the global market pressure for change could not be resisted at a national level.

For these regulators European level regulation offered a means of retaining some degree of regulatory control over the forces of international markets without losing the benefits of increased economies of scale and scope of a larger market. On the other hand, some governments and regulators saw the creation of a single market as a means of promoting liberalization and thus working 'with the grain' of the international market pressures. For these, the creation of the single European market was part of the wider process of liberalization and thus a means of removing barriers to trade stemming from different national regulatory policies.

The ambiguity in the single market initiative was constructive in the sense that it enabled governments with very different views of the role of regulation in the market to sign up to the Single European Act and the objectives of creating a genuine single European market. This common support for the objectives of the SEM enabled the legislative programme to be completed. This legislative framework for the establishment of the SEM itself also

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1
This paper draws on work carried out by the European programme of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Single European Market Initiative. The full results of the research and of the wider initiative can be found in David Mayes (ed.) The evolution of rules in the single European market, 1995.

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