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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Other Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Other Releases (2005)

Roundtable on Transatlantic Standards Issues: Meeting Notes

U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, DC
January 10, 2005

[Moderator, Penelope Naas, Director, Office of European Union and Regional Affairs, U.S. Department of Commerce]

Event Notes

Over 130 participants attended an event on January 10, 2005, sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department aimed at gathering stakeholder feedback on ways the U.S. and EU can foster better cooperation on standards to improve trade. The event was part of a larger U.S.-EU Economic Stakeholders Dialogue which will present recommendations at the 2005 U.S.-EU Summit on concrete ways of strengthening and deepening Transatlantic trade and investment. The eventís moderator who also provided opening remarks was Penelope Naas, Director of the Commerce Departmentís Office of European Union and Regional Affairs. The Commerce Departmentís Standards Liaison, Heidi Hijikata, was also present.

The Commerce Department appreciates the participation of all of the attendees and encourages them to email written comments to FR0439@ustr.eop.gov.

Following are synopses of comments made by various stakeholders; comments have not been attributed to specific individuals or organizations:


1. There are a growing number of regulations in the EU that lack scientific and economic justification. Redundant testing requirements represent a big problem (e.g., Germans donít accept French standards, etc.); harmonization (including specific timelines) between the U.S. and EU would be helpful. More dialogue and a MOU would be good, however, an approach that is overly broad or general will not help much. The EU approach is to control the market, with regulations and standards directed from the top down. The EU is trying to export a system that is "voluntary" in theory, but in practice is mandatory, for example, given the presumption of conformity to CE mark directives for products tested to European standards. This type system is attractive to and easily exported to developing countries where decision-making tends to be top down as well. The question is how does the U.S. counteract this?

2. The EU standards system is complex and sophisticated. There is a powerful, intricate infrastructure in Brussels with the ability to drive internal European standards through the ISO/IEC system and thereby promulgate them globally. A good example of this can be seen in low frequency emission (LFE) and harmonics standards, created by European power companies, which have become a huge issue. Governments outside Europe with different power infrastructures are beginning to mandate the IEC standard. U.S. industry has done studies to prove there is no scientific basis for this standard in Europe, much less in countries like China and Japan. The U.S. government should pressure the Commission to support a study on the technical justification for this standard in this regulation. Also, if a technical standard is required to support legislation, then it should be a European Norm (EN) rather than in the form of a "workshop agreement" or other mechanism that requires less openness and transparency. When a technical standard is mandated, the EU needs to ensure it is the norm within the infrastructure. There is a trend of European Standards Organizations (ESOs) developing potentially technically inferior standards as European Norms (ENs) that conflict with ISO standards. For example, there is an existing international standard for printer cartridges, yet CEN has begun new and duplicative work in that area. Need to introduce a more market-driven approach within the ESOs. More coordination within and between industry and government early in the standards/regulatory process is important. We need to improve the existing early action and early warning systems that are in place for standards issues. The U.S.-EU ICT Dialogue has been good in this regard, especially on the e-accessibility issue.

3. The EU overall is a good market for food products, but U.S. industry is definitely facing problems. Regulatory challenges are increasing and, unfortunately, U.S. food products are being pulled from the EU market. In recent years, EU regulatory initiatives (such as the 2004 Traceability and Labeling requirements) have created more market barriers. In CODEX, the EU and the U.S. are "rarely on the same page." EU standards are based on political objectives, not technological justification; the EU uses standards to advance political objectives. Unclear what the solution could be; however, international consensus can be found by using scientific, objective criteria, and improved coordination and cooperation would help.

4. Lessons learned from REACH: The EU seems bent on establishing de facto international standards, and they have explicitly stated that. By throwing down the gauntlet without first having bilateral consultations, the EU is creating immediate problems. The EUís needs could have been addressed long before the legislative process if it had looked at existing chemical data and regimes. Changes in definitions and terminology in REACH will create more barriers. Early dialogue on mutual problems could forestall similar problems in the future.

5. The U.S. and EU ought to make research and education a formal part of efforts to improve the Transatlantic economy. Close cooperation between the EU and Southeast Asia was cited as a good model, wherein Asian professionals/officials receive training about the European standards and regulatory system to become more familiar and comfortable with the European approach. Business schools in Europe, such as Erasmus University, provide the academic venue for these trainings/exchanges. Also, e-learning is a good tool for understanding standards. The question is how to formalize these efforts in the context of not only the U.S.-EU relationship but how to do that with other trading partners. First, research needs to be done to establish what really are the issues. Then, we need to formalize an understanding of these issues at the university/academic level (business schools). We need to promote understanding of standards and conformity assessment in universities on both sides of Atlantic. The U.S. and EU should use universities because they are neutral fora; specifically recommended working with Helmut-Schmidt University which has conducted projects at the business school level along these lines.

6. Some EU standards are good for consumers. For example, many U.S. consumers want domestic labeling and traceability of genetically engineered foods. Consumers want the U.S. and EU to focus on best practices and to "harmonize up" on consumer safety issues.

7. There is concern the EU is accelerating efforts to export its standards to developing countries. Allegation that Europe is "bullying" Ė soon there wonít be anything left for the U.S. to discuss. "The dichotomy is alarming."

8. The problem of interagency coordination must be examined realistically. Unless the regulatory agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have a mandate and the needed resources, we wonít see much progress. Agencies need internal resources. They also need resources for explaining technical assistance to foreign governments. The EU has put money into this. Suggests creation of a senior level Transatlantic Regulatory Policy Forum to identify key regulatory issues and bring the existing dialogue to a higher level. Commerce should push Congress to give necessary mandate to regulatory agencies to consider international trade implications as part of their work, to increase funding for technical assistance to developing countries, and to ensure NIST has sufficient funding.

9. The USNC/IEC has put two proposals into the IEC regarding Essential Differences Requirements (EDRs), but the process for getting approval in IEC has been very difficult. The ISO approved its Global Relevance policy last June, which allows for flexibility of choice within an ISO standard if the technical experts agree. ANSI needs to keep pressure on the European members of IEC and ISO to adhere to the Global Relevance policies, as it appears some national standards bodies/national committees in Europe are backsliding from the requirements. Dialogue, engagement, and consensus-building at a broad policy level, rather than confrontation, has been a good strategy in the past, and it is hoped such a strategy will continue to provide positive results in the future.

10. EU standards are spreading to developing countries; not just the standards, but every step of the product life cycle, from cradle to grave. The EU has a "unified field" approach that disadvantages U.S. companies. (1) The EU does not rely on work going on in existing fora, for example, REACH is going contrary to whatís been sought after and accomplished in other fora, such as OECD and the United Nations. The U.S. needs to use these organizations more effectively, as well. (2) Responsiveness: The EU is not just ignoring good suggestions on REACH, it is dismissing them completely. (3) The business community on both sides of the Atlantic must be involved in order to successfully address standards and regulations with such wide ranging implications. (4) Standards should be flexible, not prescriptive, and should be driven by and promote innovation.

11. There is a parallel process of Stakeholder Consultations taking place in the EU; written comments have been solicited, are being received and reviewed. There have been events in Brussels and in member states. The comments from EU industry mirror those of U.S. industry.

12. Dialogue will not solve the issues surrounding standards and regulations; both a consensus based approach and confrontation must be used. Any new standards initiative must reflect the EUís perspective on environmental regulations and sustainable development. Export of EU standards is a big problem. The precautionary principle is the basis for the EU promoting its standards outside Europe. The UN is becoming the primary forum for the export of EU standards. Precaution is even showing up at the state level in the U.S., where NGOs are trying to establish precaution as a U.S. standard. The U.S. and EU differ greatly; the U.S. focuses on risk management, while the EU focuses on precaution. The EU also defines "risk assessment" and "sustainable development" differently than does the U.S. The U.S. and EU need to emphasize these issues do not only relate to Transatlantic standards, but to standards in developing countries. Our end goal should be to have U.S. standards become the world standards, to place U.S. standards at the forefront. U.S. standards often donít see the light of day due to EU influence within ISO and other international fora. The EU defines transparency differently than the U.S. EU takes comments after the decision has been made; this is not transparency. The EU is trying to change risk assessment with the precautionary principle as it relates to sustainable development. The EU is pushing through UNEP Biosafety programs to encourage developing countries to adopt the EU sustainable development model. U.S. must communicate with and involve like-minded countries to counter this trend.

13. EU directives contain technical requirements and itís very difficult to change EU directives. Problems often arise because requirements spelled out in EU directives are in place for a long time, even though codes and technologies change. The EU system is very closed. Itís difficult to provide input early in the process, and input provided later in the process is rarely addressed in the final product.

14. The EU requires "metric-only" labeling on packaging. The U.S. has a deferral on the requirement until 2010, but this remains a problem for the long-term. The EU is the only country that prohibits non-metric labeling. Non-EU manufacturers should be given the flexibility to use dual labeling as long as theyíre meeting the metric requirement.

15. There are some areas where the U.S. and EU can agree (e.g. fuel tanks for boats). We should develop MRAs where harmonization exists and marks are compatible, for example, there should be an MRA that recognizes the U.S. Coast Guard mark and the CE mark.

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