Obama Order Urges Rule Review to Boost U.S. Company Trade

President Obama Issues Executive Order
President Barack Obama issued an executive order requiring the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to seek ways to closer align U.S. regulations with rules in other countries. Photo: Ron Sachs/Bloombergshar bgov1

President Barack Obama issued an executive order requiring a White House policy group to seek ways to closer align U.S. regulations with rules in other countries.

The order issued today instructs the panel to focus on increasing international regulatory cooperation, particularly in areas of emerging technology.

Differences in regulatory approaches between U.S. agencies and those of counterparts in an increasingly global economy “might not be necessary and might impair the ability of American businesses to export and compete internationally,” the order states.

The order aims to cut red tape “that can make it hard for American companies to grow their businesses,” Cass Sunstein, administrator of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said in remarks today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business-lobbying organization.

Federal agencies reviewing rules under the order should seek to “promote accountability and transparency and prevent unnecessary costs,” Sunstein said.

The cost of regulation has emerged as a theme in Republican campaign attacks on Obama as business groups, including the chamber, also have criticized the president’s approach to rulemaking.

Regulatory Cooperation

Obama’s order provides a framework to organize scattered efforts to promote international regulatory cooperation, the chamber’s top global regulatory official said today.

“Today’s executive order marks a paradigm shift for U.S. regulators by directing them to take the international implications of their work into account in a consistent and comprehensive way,” Sean Heather, vice president of the chamber’s Center for Global Regulatory Cooperation, said in an e-mailed statement.

The order seeks to strike a balance between reducing incompatibility in regulation between nations to promote economic activity while protecting the health and safety of Americans and reaffirming the primacy of U.S. law.

In a website posting today explaining the executive order, Sunstein said it builds on existing international efforts, including regulatory cooperation councils with Canada and Mexico.

Coordinating Regions

The executive order “is not earth-shattering, but it’s a recognition of the role international trade is playing in the economy,” John Hardy, president of the Coalition for Employment Through Exports, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for policies promoting exports, said by phone.

“Certainly the business community would support what the administration is trying to do, but it’s not going to have an overnight impact on trade,” Hardy said.

Obama’s order represents an effort to iron out relatively minor differences in regulatory approach between the U.S. and other economies, including Japan and the European Union, to focus more attention on emerging powers like China, India, Brazil and Indonesia where “regulations are more lax,” said Daniel Hamilton, executive director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, in Washington.

The Obama administration is saying, “Can we identify some ways to approach regulation to free up resources so each of us can turn our attention to more troubling areas,” Hamilton said in a telephone interview.

The Regulatory Working Group is led by Sunstein and consists of 18 representatives of cabinet departments and other high-level agencies. The U.S. Trade Representative and other officials will be added to the panel as needed for deliberations on international regulation.


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