April 2011 Joint Letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR)
Ambassador Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508
Mr. Michael Froman
Deputy Assistant to the President and
Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs
National Security Council and National Economic Council
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Ambassador Kirk, Mr. Froman, and Administrator Sunstein:
The undersigned trade associations, which represent businesses of all sizes from virtually every sector of the economy, are writing to express our strong opposition to the current proposal on international standardization recently put forward by the European Union in the context of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Negotiating Group on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA).
In today’s globally competitive economy, U.S. industry has committed to a market-driven, private sector-led approach to international standardization. Such an open approach allows companies (including companies both large and small) to best match their technical interests with their business objectives, allowing them the flexibility to choose from a portfolio of global standards based on important criteria such as technical quality, market relevance, and coherence.
The EU’s newest NAMA proposal on international standards restricts choice and flexibility not only by naming their list of preferred standardizing bodies and suggesting that only standards developed by these bodies are relevant internationally within the context of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, but by essentially requiring countries to use standards from those bodies. While this proposal is consistent with traditional European standards strategy, it fails to recognize that thousands of international standards and test methods that emanate from other globally respected standardizing bodies that currently serve as the basis for effective technical regulations or conformity assessment procedures which facilitate trade and enhance protection of public health, safety and the environment across many WTO Members and observers. The proposal also ignores significant proposals in Europe, Japan and elsewhere to expand the range of legally acceptable standards, including those developed by fora and consortia.
If the EU position were to be adopted, it would lead to technical regulations or conformity assessment procedures potentially becoming outdated as these few designated internationalstandards bodies would become choke points to standards development and deployment. While the EU asserts that its proposal responds to industry demands, we wish to make clear to you that we are strongly opposed to it.
Further, the EU NAMA proposal is inconsistent with the stated objectives and the spirit of cooperation embodied in the work program of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) and its U.S.-EU High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum. The Forum has made the use of voluntary standards in regulation a central topic of its discussions. In its June 2010 report it stated that “both sides acknowledged the difficulty in convincing the other to abandon respective positions regarding international standards.” However, the report noted that “the Commission has undertaken to respond to specific comments made by the U.S. side.” The Forum also pledged future cooperation with regard to standards in areas of emerging regulation. We are deeply disappointed that the EU NAMA proposal, if it is not withdrawn, will actively undermine the agreement to move beyond differences over standards policy and the spirit of cooperation set forth in the TEC.
In conclusion, the EU NAMA proposal restricts flexibility and choice in the global standards marketplace. Accordingly, we write to urge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to oppose the EU NAMA proposal. We appreciate your leadership in this matter and look forward to working with you.
Aluminum Extruders Council
American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC)
American Cleaning Institute
American Iron and Steel Institute
American Petroleum Institute
American Wood Council
Association of Global Automakers
Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT)
European American Business Council
National Association of Manufacturers
National Biodiesel Board
National Foreign Trade Council
NEMA: The Association of Electrical and Medical Imaging Equipment Manufacturers
Portland Cement Association
Renewable Fuels Association
SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association
The Aluminum Association
United States Council for International Business
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
April 14, 2011