Trade agreements are an important tool for opening new market opportunities for American business and its workers, but at times they fail to address foreign governments’ regulatory measures that discriminate against U.S. goods, services, or companies—whether by accident of by design. Further, questions related to national security are interjecting new complexity to policymaking on a range of areas such as investment, data flows, and cyber security.
In response, the Biden administration needs to put an emphasis on using the National Economic Council and the National Security Council to prioritize and manage policy messages to our key trading partners in coordination with the private sector. Where problems arise, we need a robust response that leverages the breadth of the U.S. government to effectively counter such measures before they become major barriers to trade. Such an approach often is taken with regard to China, but Europe, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia need more coordinated U.S. government attention.
As part of any whole-of-government approach to international economic policy, the United States should deploy not just USTR and the Departments of State, the Treasury, and Commerce: U.S. regulatory agencies must be brought more fully into the team as well. The international role and responsibility of regulatory agencies needs to be reexamined and reinvented. The U.S. approach to regulation and its regulatory frameworks provide a model to other jurisdictions.
There are also international gatherings that draw regulators from around the world to share best practices and discuss how to tackle emerging regulatory challenges. These multilateral conversations need to have a focused and coordinated U.S. government message that in part seeks to smooth trade frictions. However, too often U.S. regulators do not see it as part of their responsibility to engage internationally to alleviate trade irritants in foreign markets as part of enhancing a high regulatory standard.
Executive Order 13609 sets out a policy of international regulatory cooperation; however, the Biden-Harris administration can do much more to build upon it. Congress, too, must also reinforce the expectation that U.S. regulators need to be more internationally-minded, not only to fulfill their core regulatory mandate but also to advance U.S. commercial interests through good regulatory practices and sound regulatory frameworks.