Regulatory cooperation, as it is proposed in TTIP, has the potential to induce a regulatory chill in the area of health if it is based on the assessment that regulations are barriers to trade. Whilst regulatory cooperation could help to reduce the ‘red tape’, not all regulations fit into this category and we should recognise the social benefits that they provide. A regulatory chill would be particularly disastrous in terms of health policy on alcohol, tobacco and foods which are high in sugar, salt or fat. The EU should in particular focus on avoiding cooperation on policies to do with the price, availability, or accessibility of these goods as they are so harmful to health.
A clear distinction should be made between technical cooperation on the setting of standards and attempts to influence public interest policy-making. It is questionable whether a broad horizontal regulatory chapter making TTIP a ‘living agreement’ is needed to achieve technical cooperation as this already occurs independently in other international fora.
With such a large set of tools available for regulatory cooperation, the impact of the agreement will depend on how the two parties agree on what is agreed and how it is implemented. There is potential for significant damages to many areas of health policy of which just a few are quality insurance in health and medical devices.
While there might be potential beneficial aspects to regulatory cooperation in some areas, the benefits cannot be based purely on the assumption that greater regulatory liberalisation is universally beneficial. Lowest common denominator standards would also be against the economic interests of a knowledge-based economy like Europe. We have the innovation capacity to be at the forefront of healthy, cleaner, less polluting products and production practices, for example.
Any form of regulatory cooperation must be transparent, democratic and with strong accountability. The Regulatory cooperation chapter must contain provisions guaranteeing parliamentary oversight and access for public interest stakeholders, including public health experts, to the various bodies and mechanisms to provide input at all stages and levels