Transatlantic Patterns of Risk Regulation

How risks are regulated can affect domestic outcomes, such as the benefits and costs of protecting consumers, health and environment, and it can also foster or limit opportunities for international trade. A question addressed in this report is whether different approaches to risk regulation lead to different levels of protection.

Based on a study commissioned by the European Parliament in 2016, this report offers a descriptive transatlantic comparison of regulatory standards in four key sectors: Food, automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals. It shows that EU risk regulation is not always or generally more stringent than US regulation. The reality is a complex mix of parity and particularity between EU and US risk regulation.

The reality of transatlantic regulation is not a simple dichotomy of a European approach versus an American approach. It is not EU precaution versus US reaction, or ex-ante versus ex-post legal systems, or civil law versus common law, or uncertainty-based versus evidence-based regulatory systems. Rather, the reality is overall EU-US parity as well as some particular variation in policies on both sides of the Atlantic. This includes both cases of greater European stringency and cases of greater US stringency.

On the other hand, regulatory variation can also be the basis for learning to improve future regulatory design, both by comparing outcomes across regulations in different jurisdictions, and by planning adaptive regulation over time. International regulatory cooperation involves collaboration to review existing regulations and design new approaches that improve outcomes for all. The EU and US can learn from this variation, and from evolving understanding, to improve regulatory standards through monitoring, evaluation, impact assessment, and planned adaptive regulation.

The authors of this report are Prof. Jonathan B. Wiener, Duke University (Chapter 1; Chapter 2, Food Safety and Automobiles; and Chapter 3); Prof. Arthur C. Petersen, University College London (Chapters 1 and 3); Dr Christina Benighaus, Dialogik (Chapter 2, Chemicals); Dr John D. Graham, Indiana University (Chapter 2, Automobiles); Prof. Kenneth A. Oye, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Chapter 2, Pharmaceuticals); and Prof. Dr Ortwin Renn, IASS Potsdam (Chapter 2, Chemicals).