Greater TTIP Ambition in Chemicals: Why and how

Tuesday, 28 July 2015
CEPS Special Reports
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To date, the negotiations over chemicals in the Translatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have not shown sufficient ambition. The talks have focused too much on the differences in the two ‘systems’, rather than on the actual levels of health and environmental protection for substances regulated by both the US and the EU. Given the accomplishments within the OECD and the UN Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), the question is whether TTIP can be any more ambitious in the area of chemicals? We find that there is no detailed or systematic knowledge about how the two levels of protection in chemicals compare, although caricatures and stereotypes abound. This is partly due to an obsessive focus on a single US federal law, the Toxic Subtances Control Act (TSCA), whereas in practice US protection depends on many statutes and regulations, as well as on voluntary withdrawals (under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency) and severe common law liability. This paper makes the economic case for firmly addressing the regulatory barriers, discusses the EU’s proposals, finds that the European Parliament’s Resolution on TTIP of July 2015 lacks a rationale (for chemicals), argues that both TSCA and REACH ought to be improved (based on ‘better regulation’), discusses the link with a global regime, advocates significant improvement of market access where equivalence of health and environmental objectives is agreed and, finally, proposes to lower the costs for companies selling in both markets by allowing them to opt into the other party’s more stringent rules, thereby avoiding duplication while racing-to-the-top.

The ‘living agreement’ on chemicals ought to be led by a new TTIP institution authorised to establish the level of health and environmental protection on both sides of the Atlantic for substances regulated on both sides. These findings will lay the foundation for a highly beneficial lowering of trading costs without in any way affecting the level of protection. Indeed, this is exactly what TTIP is, or should be, all about.This paper is the 10th in a series produced in the context of the “TTIP in the Balance” project, jointly organised by CEPS and the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) in Washington, D.C. It is published simultaneously on the CEPS (www.ceps.eu) and CTR websites (http://transatlantic.sais-jhu.edu).

E. Donald Elliott is Professor of Law (adjunct) at Yale University and Senior Counsel, Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C. Jacques Pelkmans is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges. This paper is the 10th in a series produced in the context of the “TTIP in the Balance” project, jointly organised by CEPS and the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) in Washington, D.C. It is published simultaneously on the CEPS (www.ceps.eu) and CTR websites (http://transatlantic.sais-jhu.edu