Following our first visit to discuss TTIP issues in September 2013 with our US counterparts, US regulators, standardisers and certifiers, on 21-24 October, Orgalime organised once again a mission to Washington DC with representatives of our member associations from different countries and different branches of the industry we represent – electrical, electronic, mechanical engineering and metalworking.
The reasons for our visit were multiple – to formally adopt our joint NEMA – Orgalime position paper on TTIP and to discuss further steps to take, to meet again a number of the regulators we had met the previous year (Department of Commerce, OSHA and USTR), to participate in the OSHA NRTL stakeholder meeting and finally to meet other contacts such as AEM, AMT and ANSI.
If last year, our main purpose in coming to Washington DC had been to gain a better understanding of the core issues which are on the table and the views of our counterparts at the outset of the TTIP process, since then we have aimed at bridging the differences in approach between our organisations, while knowing that there is significant commonality in the outcomes we seek; this is hardly surprising given the considerable overlap in membership of our companies, many of which are moreover global players.
Over the last year, we have worked hard to raise awareness on the considerable weight of trade in engineering products between the EU and the USA: on the EU side, as is shown by the recently published negotiating mandate given to the European Commission (somewhat akin to the US TPA), this was necessary. Notwithstanding the fact that the trade in engineering products is a major part of trade between the EU and the US, there was no mention of engineering.
It is true that the diversity of products, processes and systems covered by our industry is vast, which therefore makes it difficult for trade negotiators to handle, in particular as the main barriers are in the area of regulation, conformity assessment procedures and standards, but this is where we believe the real gains are to be made for our companies. And as the competitiveness of the US and the EU as manufacturing sites is permanently under pressure from economies enjoying cheaper labour or other inputs, so the focus on technology to stay ahead of the game and on reducing unnecessary barriers and costs towards creating a larger ‘home market’ base become all the more important.
What we therefore wanted first of all to ensure is that our regulators and industry partners understand each other’s’ systems and talk about the same issues in the same terms: building collaboration on the basis of hearsay or limited knowledge is something of a challenge. A year after our first visit, we believe we are on the way to achieving this but must go on.
This is one of the reasons why three of our members were pleased to speak at OSHA’s NRTL hearing and more participated in the hearing after which we also had the privilege of having further discussions with OSHA. We must thank NEMA for facilitating this and for helping us through this to allow US regulators to gain a better understanding of our system and us of the US system. Now on our return we are talking to EU regulators to update them and to entice them to go on building the bridges that are needed to achieve a worthwhile outcome for TTIP.
A further issue for us over the past months has been to try to reinforce our voice as the representative of our industry and its views: at the request of the European Commission we therefore published a rather lengthy and detailed position paper where, besides covering horizontal issues such as customs procedures, tariffs, dual use goods, etc., we went into much more detail on areas specific to our industry. After comparing US and EU approaches, we gave our view on how progress could be made in reducing unnecessary barriers to trade and therefore costs in areas such as machinery safety, electrical safety, pressure equipment and equipment used in explosive atmospheres. We wanted to do this as we believe such proposals should come from manufacturing industry representatives. Indeed, we have been struck by how much still needs to be done to make sure that the voice of industry is heard above that of other interested parties who tend to speak for our industry, while, we feel, sometimes focusing rather too much on their own interest.
Now what next? We were interested during our first visit to discuss with NEMA of the agreement reached between MITA and COCIR. Other engineering industry sectors have also done the same, for example AEM (US agricultural machinery and construction equipment industry), CECE (EU construction equipment) and CEMA (EU agricultural machinery).
Now we have gone the same way by agreeing a common position between NEMA and Orgalime which is wider, more horizontal in its approach and covers the whole area of regulatory coherence as well as the area of standardisation. Our aim is now to see how many others we can bring on board our joint Orgalime – NEMA position to paper to reinforce the messages of our industry that, besides the low hanging fruit which should be fairly easy to include in a TTIP agreement, we are ready to work on building bridges in the area of regulatory objectives, standardisation and conformity assessment. We count on NEMA to ensure that US regulators clearly hear the voice of our industry on these issues.
We know that agreement between regulators on both sides of the Atlantic will not be easy: we are talking of two of the world’s largest economies, with complex and mature regulatory frameworks; so, there are inevitably differences in approach which are born from history. But fundamentally we share the same values and we both aspire to high standards, just as you might expect. We therefore remain convinced that tackling regulatory divergences between the EU and the US will equally benefit businesses of all sizes and increase transatlantic trade flows. It will also help us both on world markets to achieve our common objective for global market access on the basis of ‘one standard, one test, accepted everywhere’.