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Obama to Regulators: Think Globally

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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Aiming to minimize regulatory hurdles to international trade, President Obama has signed an order requiring federal agencies to weigh the global implications of all current and future rules.

The new Executive Order (EO) 13609, Promoting International Regulatory Cooperation, is intended to strengthen U.S. exports, economic growth, and job creation by helping to eliminate unnecessary regulatory differences between the United States and other countries, the White House announced.

 President Barack Obama and Cass Sunstein

 White House Photo

By minimizing regulations that conflict with those of international trading partners, “we can eliminate pointless red tape,” Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator Cass Sunstein (right) said of the new Executive Order signed by President Obama.

The order requires U.S. regulators, “to the extent permitted by law, to select approaches that maximize net benefits; choose the least burdensome alternative; increase public participation in the rulemaking process; design rules that are simpler and more flexible, and that provide freedom of choice; and base regulations on sound science.”

The order “also calls for an ambitious, government-wide ‘lookback’ at existing rules, with the central goal of eliminating outdated requirements and unjustified costs.

‘Make Government Work Better’

The new order was part of a summit May 1 on recommendations for international regulatory cooperation and related issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

The recommendations come from the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS), an independent federal agency that provides nonpartisan expertise for improving federal agency procedures.

Obama has called ACUS “a public-private partnership designed to make the government work better.”

The new order “puts into official White House policy the requirement that regulators take into account the international implications of their actions in a consistent and comprehensive way,” said Cass Sunstein, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), part of the Office of Management and Budget. 

‘Eliminate Pointless Red Tape’

“[W]e will respect domestic law and will not compromise U.S. priorities and prerogatives,” Sunstein blogged recently. “Even while insisting on those priorities and prerogatives, we can eliminate pointless red tape.”

Sunstein added: “Today’s global economy relies on supply chains that cross national borders (sometimes more than once), and different regulatory requirements in different countries can significantly increase costs for companies doing business abroad.

“As the President’s Jobs Council recently noted, international regulatory cooperation can reduce these costs and help American businesses access foreign markets.  Such cooperation can also help U.S. regulators more effectively protect the environment and the health and safety of the American people.”

Order Highlights
The Executive Order calls for an interagency working group headed by OIRA to provide a forum “to foster greater cooperation and coordination of U.S. government strategies, including those for promoting regulatory transparency, sound regulatory practices, and U.S. regulatory approaches abroad.”

It also requires federal agencies, as part of Obama’s 2011 regulatory review mandate, to consider regulatory reforms that eliminate unnecessary differences between the United States and its major trading partners.

Sunstein said such efforts have already begun “close to home,” with the establishment of new Regulatory Cooperation Councils with Canada and Mexico.

“The Councils are implementing work plans to eliminate or prevent the creation of unnecessary regulatory differences that adversely affect cross-border trade; to streamline regulatory requirements; and to promote greater certainty for the general public and businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, …” Sunstein said.

Chamber Kudos

The new order drew praise from the Chamber of Commerce. “This landmark executive order recognizes that good regulatory policy supports good trade policy,” said Sean Heather, vice president of the Chamber’s Center for Global Regulatory Cooperation.

“Dialogue between U.S. regulators and their foreign counterparts can avert unnecessary divergences in regulation that become ‘behind the border’ barriers to commerce and hinder the ability of U.S. companies to reach the 95% of the world’s consumers that live beyond our borders.”

Streamlining Standards

The summit also featured a panel on standards and incorporation by reference that included remarks from Scott Cooper, vice president, government relations and public policy, American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

ANSI is backing a current federal proposal to amend the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA’s) regulations governing the approval of agency requests to incorporate by reference (IBR) materials into the Code of Federal Regulations.

The comment period on the proposal runs through June 1.

The issue impacts the standards community in a number of key ways, especially with respect to defining the “reasonable availability” of voluntary consensus standards that have been incorporated into regulation.

ANSI has developed a consensus response to the proposal on behalf of the standardization community.


Tagged categories: Laws and litigation; President Obama; Regulations

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