regulatory cooperation, highlighting
specific areas, including safety testing for
automobiles, chemicals and cosmetics.
In deference to political sensitivities
on both continents, agriculture and other
industries that are subject to significant tariffs, such as steel and textiles, are not part of
the framework. Nor would anything in the
agreement stop politicians from doing what
they can to keep “national champions” in
local hands—as happened in April, when
AT&T dropped its plans to buy a large
stake of Telecom Italia, under political
pressure from the Italian government.
Nevertheless, supporters of the framework say it will help to expose such
protectionism by encouraging impact assessments, which will help citizens to see
what economic nationalism costs their
nation’s economy in lost competitiveness—
and thus make it harder for politicians to
justify blocking foreign investment.
Not everyone is cheering the agreement. Ron Blackwell, chief economist
at the AFL-CIO, says there is a need
for greater attention to the “social and
Common U.S.-EU standards
would become the de facto
global norm, leveling
the regulatory playing
environmental aspect of integration.”
Never mind the argument, set forth in
a book that made the bestseller lists in
Germany last year, that a transatlantic
common market could help protect the
environment and the rights of workers
around the world by giving the U.S. and the
EU more leverage over China and other
emerging powers. Blackwell sees little hope
of such results unless America and Europe
make an explicit commitment to them.
On the other hand, some proponents
of free market economics fear that the
agreement might lead to an excessive
tightening of regulation across the board.
“If the goal is openness, competition
and consumer welfare, then it’s a goal
worth pursuing,” says Daniel T. Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute in
Washington, D.C. “If the goal is to bind
foreign competitors in the same regulatory web that domestic companies find
themselves, then it’s a fool’s errand and
shouldn’t be pursued.”
But GE’s Vassallo, representing the
business community that has driven the
campaign to eliminate transatlantic trade
barriers, discounts the danger of such upward regulatory creep.
“If convergence goes in that direction,”
he says, “then we will not be for it.”
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