(Side note: this is my first blog post on the new Commission website. My blog in Swedish is still available here, and older blog posts from my time as Commissioner for Home Affairs can be accessed here.)
Today, we publish our proposal for a chapter on so called regulatory cooperation on our website, which we handed over to US negotiators last week during the 8th round of talks. Just as in the other areas of our negotiations, a detailed factsheet is also available.
There's been quite an amount of speculation and misunderstanding around what this regulatory cooperation would entail.
Needless to say, one of the main tasks of governments and the EU is to regulate to protect people from risks. Countries do it in different ways. The European and American systems of regulation are among the most advanced and sophisticated in the world. The EU and US do have different attitudes to some aspects of regulations. But in many cases we just have different, but equivalent, solutions to the same problem. Regulatory cooperation is about identifying such areas, checking if cooperation is possible – and if the answer is 'yes', then trying to find best solutions and learn from each other.
With TTIP, we want to build bridges between the EU and US regulators to make regulation more compatible – without lowering health, safety, environment or consumer protection standards.
Again - we will not in any way lower our high standards, but uphold them.
This kind of cooperation would be focussed on technical rules that govern the marketing of goods and supply of services. To some extent, this is something that the US and the EU is already doing since several years. For example, both sides already publish a comprehensive list of planned regulatory acts, offering the possibility for stakeholders to weigh in also. Large chunks of regulation are not, and will not be, included at all in this type cooperation (for example social security issues or working conditions).
Going forward, better regulatory cooperation would mean streamlining the way we inspect products and set out requirements or authorisation procedures. A few examples:
Take Xvivo Perfusion – a small firm in my home country of Sweden. They build life-saving systems to protect donated hearts, lungs and livers during transplant operations. Getting their equipment approved in the US would have been a lot easier with the similar data requirements that TTIP could bring. That would have allowed them to expand more quickly.
Another example – Alfred H. Schütte GmbH, a machine tools company that employs 600 people in Cologne, Germany. Different standards on things like the colour of wiring and types of plugs and sockets means that it costs this firm 10 to 15% more to produce a machine for the US market than for the EU market.
Or take European agriculture. European products need to be approved by US authorities before they can be sold there. The problem is that this process takes years. For example, 12 years and counting in the case of European peaches – a great disadvantage to EU peach producers.
TTIP could include clear timelines and procedures for the approval and certification process, and that in some cases EU rules and controls could be considered equivalent to US controls, eliminating the need for US inspections altogether.
So in short , we want to focus our regulatory cooperation work on technical areas where EU and US regulations are already similar. That goes for areas such as car safety, engineering and medical devices as well.
If we cooperate in those fields, three things happen:
- We get all the jobs that come with reducing the cost of doing business
- We get to keep our high standards of regulatory protection
- We stay well away from areas where we don't agree.
Now you can read our proposal for this TTIP chapter on our website, along with several other proposals and position papers from the negotiations. We will continue to publish other aspects of regulatory cooperation as soon as we have shared our proposals with US counterparts. And I will keep on consulting with EU governments, the European Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders to gather feedback and clear the air of misperceptions. Once the negotiations are over, we will submit the text to EU governments in the Council and to the European Parliament for approval.
The challenges facing Europe today are serious, and TTIP is a serious response to those challenges. Getting rid of unnecessary red tape is at the heart of what we want to achieve. The benefits of this deal may not always be obvious, and I fully understand those who have doubts. From the Commission's side, we can only strive to be as open and transparent as possible as we move forward in these negotiations, in order to have a strong and lively debate based on facts.