Neither Global Governance Nor Race to the Bottom: Regulatory Coherence in the TTIP

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is about much more than reducing border barriers.  In fact, the largest economic gains from a prospective deal are expected to come from “coherence” or “harmonization” of regulations and regulatory processes. Think about the added savings that could be passed on in the form of lower prices, higher R&D expenditures, and more investment if producers didn’t have to comply with two (or more) different sets of regulations implemented to achieve the same health, safety, or environmental outcomes. Regulatory coherence is not a race to the regulatory bottom (as the European Left likes to say) or global government enshrining the growth-strangling regulations preferred by Europeans (as the American Right likes to say). It is, in theory, smarter regulation.

In his Cato Online Forum essay (submitted in conjunction with last week’s Cato TTIP conference), international law professor Alberto Alemanno gets into some of the details of this important part of the negotiations. While he applauds the prospect of regulatory discussions yielding greater awareness of the extraterritorial impact of regulations, and hence opening the door to best practices and restraint, he also worries that the agreement will inevitably entail some limitations on regulatory autonomy.