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T-TIP and ICT Standardization: Opportunity is Knocking

Significant alignment between the U.S. and EU standards and regulations approaches can mean significant new opportunities for our economies, including new jobs and innovative products and services for consumers.  Today in Brussels, U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman made that evident.


Our goals for T-TIP are clear.  A successful negotiation will create a comprehensive agreement, which not only opens markets but ties us closer together; not only enhances our mutual commitment to rules-based trade, but empowers us and enhances our ability to strengthen the rules-based system around the world – including around issues such as localization and the role of state-owned enterprises.

This is, in itself, an ambitious agenda.  But the greatest opportunity – and the greatest challenge – of T-TIP is in the area of regulation and standards.


Ambassador Froman is the point person for the U.S. side in the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  His speech today about the importance of standards and regulatory approaches, on the eve of the second round of negotiations, placed critical attention on these issues. 


We need to admit that government regulatory experts, be they in Brussels or Washington, do not have a monopoly on good ideas and expertise.  Many private sector actors are ahead of the curve with cutting-edge ideas.  And the speed at which standards are being set by the market is far greater than most bureaucratic or intergovernmental bodies can move. 

We have seen this in the incredibly innovative area of information technology, where ultimately, the need for interoperable standards encouraged the EU to join the U.S. in working with private sector-led standards.  But in other areas, an inability to incorporate the best ideas from market-driven standard-setting processes has discouraged innovation and interoperability, increased costs and reduced competitiveness. 

Neither Europe nor the U.S. can afford to leave good ideas on the table.  Gone are the days when we could take comfort in ‘national’ standards or ‘European’ standards or even ‘international’ standards divorced from the market.  Our goal should be to move standardization towards new open, global horizons and create an environment in which our companies can succeed world-wide. 

Together, we want to collaborate in the development of global standards, not simply be standard-takers.  We see this as critical to our capacity to create jobs, promote growth and improve the standards of living of people here at home.


And it isn’t just Amb. Froman making these points.  Principals in both governments are saying the right things, highlighting the tremendous opportunity T-TIP offers to enhance business growth and job creation in both markets.  After meeting with Froman earlier today, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht reinforced the common benefits of the standards negotiations:


As we have stated before, both sides agree that T-TIP is more than a traditional trade agreement. Our main ambition - beyond simply reducing tariffs across the board - is to make the EU and the US regulatory systems more compatible and to help shape global rules in trade since this is where the economic and political benefits of a deal lie.


There is also consensus that a U.S.-EU trade alliance would have a significant, positive impact on global trade, effectively providing a roadmap for other countries to follow who desire to replicate our economic successes. 

We understand that there are genuine differences between the U.S. and European approaches in this area – but they are not insurmountable.  There are enough areas of commonality that can serve as the starting point for achieving even greater alignment between the two markets.  By working together in these trade negotiations, we have the opportunity to set the 21st-century benchmark for forward-looking, global voluntary standards and thereby ensure that this approach is at the heart of the international digital economy.

Whether in functionality, interoperability, safety or e-accessibility, voluntary, consensus-based standards establish the common core of expectations for tech products.  The results speak for themselves.  Every major digital innovation has been built on voluntary, consensus-based standards.  This foundation has transformed our global society and how we live, work, learn, and play, and has helped advance the global economy from the industrial age to the digital revolution.  The possibilities for tomorrow are extraordinary.

As negotiators proceed with the second round in Brussels, we hope that they’ll keep these points in mind: 

  • Voluntary, consensus-based global standards are shaped by diverse stakeholders who bring expertise and creativity to the discussions, and by a process that is open and transparent.  Openness and transparency encourage participation and provide anyone the opportunity to contribute to the direction of next-generation innovations and assist in decisions that are based on science and technical merit.
  • Technical regulations and related conformity assessment schemes can threaten innovation, particularly when those regulations are prescriptive and not performance based.  A model for sound regulatory practices can minimize the impact on innovation while achieving legitimate regulatory objectives.
  • The U.S. and EU have the opportunity to set the 21st-century benchmark for global standards and sound regulatory practices, and ensure that this approach is at the heart of the international digital economy.  A common approach to standards development in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) talks will establish an open and transparent process that becomes the “global norm.”  Such an agreement will promote innovation and improve competitiveness of the transatlantic market. 

As we have stated before, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership presents significant opportunities for new job creation and economic growth for both the United States and the European Union -- if negotiators can forge an agreement that reflects the dynamic, innovative marketplace in both regions.  Already, the U.S. and EU, together, account for one-half of the world’s GDP and one-third of all world trade.  Experts believe that the transatlantic pact would add $155 billion a year to the EU economy and $124 billion a year to the U.S. economy, while increasing annual global GDP by $130 billion.  That is essential growth for the global economy. 

We appreciate Ambassador Froman’s remarks today on standards and regulation, and hope that it can lead to significant progress on this issue in the T-TIP talks.  U.S. and EU negotiators can establish the foundation for accelerated and lasting economic growth by adopting a harmonized approach to market-based standards and by setting a global model for sound regulatory practices.


Key U.S.-EU Trade Facts

  • The U.S. and the European Union are each other’s largest economic partners
  • Each day, $2.6 billion worth of goods and services flowing between the two regions
  • The U.S. and EU invest nearly $4 trillion in each other’s economies
  • More than 13 million people owe their jobs to trade between the U.S. and EU 
Public Policy Tags: Regulatory Compliance, Industry Standards, Trade & Investment