Obama Seeks to Promote “International Regulatory Cooperation”

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President issues executive order as way to enhance U.S. economic growth.

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In a new executive order issued yesterday, President Obama has directed the head of his administration’s regulatory review office to increase “international regulatory cooperation” among U.S. agencies and their foreign counterparts as a way to promote U.S. trade policy.

Cass Sunstein, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), will lead the effort to coordinate American and international regulatory policy under the executive order. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Administrator Sunstein argued that the new order will “promote exports, growth, and job creation by eliminating unnecessary regulatory differences across nations.”

The current, sluggish economy might make it seem like any action to promote job creation would be uniformly applauded. However, disagreement over the order appears already to have emerged. Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, has decried the Administration’s new policy as a “smokescreen for deregulation” of public interest and pro-consumer protections.

Under the executive order, the federal government will search for “best practices for international regulatory cooperation,” which could include exchanging information and comparing other “regulatory tools.”

The order also requires agencies that submit a Regulatory Plan under Executive Order 12866 to “include in that plan a summary of its international regulatory cooperation activities that are reasonably anticipated to lead to significant regulations.” It also mandates that agencies include regulations with perceived “unnecessary” differences among the U.S. and its major trading partners in their retrospective review plans under Executive Order 13563.

The executive order also grants an already-existing federal Regulatory Working Group the authority to commission relevant reports from OIRA, the Administrative Conference of the United States, and even other U.S. agencies. The Office of the United States Trade Representative will be represented on the Working Group.