The truth about the EU’s proposal on regulatory coherence

**This blog post is the second in a series discussing the chilling effects TTIP will likely have on laws to better protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals in both the United States and European Union.

By Baskut Tuncak, Senior Attorney Environmental Health Program
By Baskut Tuncak, Senior Attorney Environmental Health Program

The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is not a conventional trade agreement. TTIP is, at its heart, a regulatory agreement between EU and US regulatory agencies. The objective of TTIP is to reduce the costs on businesses of regulations that aim to protect people and the environment. In the first blog post in this series, I discussed why TTIP is a transatlantic regulatory agreement. Negotiators on both sides claim that huge economic gains are possible from reducing the cost of regulations on industry.

A recently leaked EU position paper on “regulatory coherence” confirms the concerns CIEL shared at a US Congressional hearing on the implications of TTIP in July – specifically that TTIP will have a chilling effect on the development and implementation of laws to protect people and the environment. To illustrate the potential implications of what is being proposed, I use the chemicals sector as an example. However, the EU proposes that “All sectors should be covered [by the chapter on regulatory cooperation].”

What is the EU proposing? In short, the EU is proposing to:

  1. Prevent US states and EU Member States from taking stronger measures to protect people and the environment (EU position paper section 1);
  2. Impose burdensome consultation processes with regulators and stakeholders (industry) on the other side of the Atlantic (EU position paper sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7);
  3. Enable products meeting weaker standards to be sold in countries or regions that have stricter rules in place through “mutual recognition” (EU position paper section 2); and
  4. Require regulations and standards to be the least-burdensome on international trade, rather than focusing on protection of human health or the environment (EU position paper sections 2, 3, 4, and 5).

And, as if this wasn’t enough to chill regulatory processes on both sides of the Atlantic, negotiators are proposing to create a super-body of EU and US regulators—the Regulatory Cooperation Council (EU position paper section 7)—to oversee each other’s regulatory progress.

Negotiators repeatedly state that what they are proposing will not affect the right of each country/region to regulate. But, what they are not saying is how it will affect the pace of regulation or the quality of the resulting regulation when it comes to protecting people or the environment. In the context of chemicals, implementation is the key issue – not rewriting the text of existing legislation, which is what industry and governments argue about to deflect criticism from the real effects TTIP will have on implementation.

An example: EU REACH regulation

For over a decade, the US government and industry have complained about the EU’s REACH regulation, which takes a pragmatic and necessary shift away from the US’ failed 1970’s era policy of presuming a chemical’s safety in our homes and environment. REACH is seen by US government and industry as a trade barrier. Despite more than a decade of US government and industry opposition, countries around the world are adopting REACH-like principles – including major US trading partners like China, undermining the argument that REACH is a trade barrier. In the absence of meaningful reform of outdated laws and policies in the US – namely the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – over 30 US states have taken action, inspired and enabled by the progress being made abroad. But REACH is still years away from being fully implemented, and even then, much more progress is needed in Europe and around the world. The EU’s vision for regulatory coherence under TTIP – once again, a transatlantic regulatory agreement – would have a chilling effect on continued efforts to better protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals.

**The next blog post in this series will detail how the contents of the leaked EU negotiating document will have specific impacts on the chemicals sector.

Originally posted on December 18, 2013.