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Other Issues (07-02-2006)

EU-US Cooperation in Health and Consumer Protection: Director-General Robert Madelin visits Washington

Robert Madelin, Director General of DG Health and Consumer Protection, visited Washington last week to discuss, amongst other issues, transatlantic cooperation on avian influenza, tackling the rise in obesity and boosting EU-US cooperation on food safety and consumer protection matters.
Avian Influenza and Pandemic Preparedness
Avian influenza and preparation for a possible human flu pandemic were discussed in several meetings between Mr. Madelin and senior US counterparts, including Ambassador Nancy Powell, US Senior Coordinator on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. Satisfaction was expressed with the outcome of the Beijing Pledging conference in January (see IP/06/49), at which the EU and US were the two largest donors. It was agreed that careful coordination would be required in following up on the pledging conference, particularly when it comes to allocating the donated funds to various countries and projects. There was positive US interest in the senior official level follow-up conference to be hosted by the Austrian Presidency in Vienna in May. Both sides also concurred that better coordination on avian influenza-related expert missions would be beneficial, as would sharing information on the outcome of such missions.
In terms of human flu pandemic preparedness, Mr Madelin discussed the possibility of coordinated emergency communication in the case of a pandemic. It was noted that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were already cooperating well, and it was suggested that joint emergency simulation exercises to deepen this collaboration could be explored as an idea in the future.
Both the USA and EU are faced with the significant challenge of trying to curb the growing rate of obesity amongst citizens. Therefore, Mr Madelin took the opportunity in his meetings with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to discuss areas for action in relation to this problem, as well as measures already taken on both sides. There was a positive US view of the European Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and strong interest in the transatlantic nutrition and physical activity seminar to be hosted by the Platform in Brussels in May.
Food safety
During discussions between Mr Madelin and senior officials in the US Trade Representative (USTR) and Department of Agriculture, there emerged a strong sense of political will to reduce the number of unresolved Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues between the EU and US, by reinforcing transatlantic dialogue on these matters, identifying priorities and setting up a process of regulatory dialogue that will deliver concrete results. 
Consumer Protection
Overall, EU-US cooperation on consumer protection issues is strong, and in Mr Madelin’s meeting with the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) it was suggested that this collaboration could serve as an incentive to other trading partners to participate in consumer safety co-operation. Both sides exchanged information on important consumer dossiers such as the safety of lighters and terrain vehicles.
Mr Madelin agreed that the European Commission should work with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) on how regulators should prepare for the increase in nano-products, and how a safe and supportive regulatory environment for these new technologies can be developed.