June 12, 2008
Interest in transatlantic economic cooperation is hard to sell to the public. That is the conclusion of Philip Whyte at the Centre for European Reform:
If the potential economic gains from deepening the transatlantic economy are marked, why is the TEC’s [Transatlantic Economic Council – Nanne] agenda not better known? The (largely justified) perception that it is dull does not help. Let’s face it: the mutual recognition of GAAP and IFRS accountancy standards, or, for that matter, the transatlantic dimension of the EU’s chemicals directive, are not the sorts of subject that most normal people are inclined to discuss when they kick back and relax after work.
A lot of transatlantic economic cooperation is very detailed work that is hard to render in political terms. The overall direction towards greater liberalisation of trade might be worth talking about. But that political aspect has become murky, hidden behind the details, implicit. That is partially because it has become presumed to be only responsible position by much of the media.
Non-tariff barriers as dealt with by the TEC are a catch-all phrase for regulation that sometimes largely serves to harass imports, sometimes just hasn’t been coordinated, but in other cases serves political goals other than rank protectionism. It has become hard to have a sensible debate on the balance of this as well as other trade topics because the only positions that are argued are either an implicit bias in favour of all forms of liberalisation, or the diametrical opposite, which is in favour of protectionism as a goal in itself — the thereby ‘unserious’ left.PAR