TTIP’s Hard Core: Technical barriers to trade and standards

Tuesday, 4 August 2015
CEPS Special Reports
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Michelle Egan and Jacques Pelkmans provide an overview of the TBT chapter in TTIP and the various issues between the US and the EU in this area, which in turn requires extensive expositions of domestic regulation in the US and the EU. TBTs, outside heavily regulated sectors such as chemicals, automobiles or medicines (which have separate chapters in TTIP), can be caused by divergent (voluntary) standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment. Indeed, in all three the US and the EU have long experienced frictions with considerable trading costs. The 1998 Mutual Recognition Agreement about conformity assessment only succeeded in two out of six sectors. The US and European standardisation traditions differ and this paper explains why it is so hard, also economically, to realise convergence. However, the authors reject the unproductive ‘stand-off’ between US and EU negotiators on standardisation and suggest to clarify the enormous economic ‘installed base’ of prominent US standards in the world economy and build a solution from there. As to technical regulation, the prospect of converging regulation (via harmonisation) is often dim, but equivalence (given similar levels of regulatory protection) can be an option.

Michelle Egan is Associate Professor at the School of International Service, American University, Washington, D.C. Jacques Pelkmans is Senior Research Fellow at CEPS and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, Bruges. This paper is the 13th 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 ( and CTR websites (