EU Push for More Unified Product Standards with the United States

Since spring 2019, the United States and the European Union have been negotiating trade agreements to dismantle tariffs on industrial goods and to reduce non-tariff barriers by mutual recognizing conformity assessments for technical standards. In late November 2019, the European Commission published its proposal for an agreement on conformity assessment. Both sides would benefit from such an agreement.

The core of the current EU proposal on mutual recognition of conformity assessments is that legally binding conformity assessments in the United States could be carried out according to the legal provisions of the EU and vice versa. This would allow testing institutes in one economic area to obtain accreditation from the other party. The EU proposal contains detailed provisions on licensing as well as positive and negative lists of sectors for which such testing licenses should be possible. The regulatory sovereignty of both parties is explicitly not restricted, and no requirements or rules of the other party are adopted. In both the EU and in the United States, the respective standards and regulations will therefore remain untouched.

According to the 2020 Trade Policy Agenda of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the United States has also submitted a proposal for the recognition of conformity assessments. This proposal has not yet been published (as of 9 April 2020).

BDI welcomes the EU’s proposal. Companies on both sides of the Atlantic would benefit from such an agreement – on the one hand, via a common market for certification institutions. On the other hand, the mutual recognition of test and inspection results would eliminate unnecessary duplication of tests for already approved components. Furthermore, progress in the field of conformity assessments can provide a positive impulse for the negotiations on the dismantling of industrial goods tariffs. An agreement on industrial goods would give the closely intertwined economies of the EU and the United States cost advantages on the world market.