Regulatory Protectionism: A Hidden Threat to Free Trade

Policy Forum
April 18, 2013 12:00PM
Hayek Auditorium
Featuring K. William Watson, Trade Policy Analyst, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute; Donald J. Boudreaux, Professor, George Mason University Department of Economics, and Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; and James Bacchus, Former World Trade Organization Appellate Body Chairman; moderated by Sallie James, Trade Policy Analyst, Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Cato Institute.

You may have heard media stories blaming imported products for making us sick and destroying the environment. Policymakers often point to these dangers to promote new regulatory requirements or tougher inspections. What they don’t tell you is how those regulations will give a competitive advantage to domestic industry.

Regulatory protectionism, like other trade barriers, imposes costs on consumers, importers, and downstream businesses while harming the U.S. economy. Protectionist domestic regulations are being challenged more frequently at the World Trade Organization and have become a major sticking point in trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic trade negotiations.

Is it possible to reduce the risk of protectionist influence in health, safety, and environmental regulation? Should international law prohibit domestic regulations that unnecessarily inhibit trade? A new Cato Policy Analysis says the answer is “yes” and calls on policymakers and activists to be more cautious of domestic industry influence. Our distinguished panel will discuss the political origins of regulatory protectionism and consider how the United States might keep its laws and regulations free of protectionism and prevent future trade disputes.