Playing By Brussels' Rules
April 23, 2002
Most Americans probably don't realize it, but rules governing the food they eat, the software they use and the cars they drive increasingly are set in Brussels, the unofficial capital of the European Union and the home of its executive body, the European Commission.
Even though the European market is second in size to the U.S. market, the EU calls the regulatory shots for U.S. exporters. That's because the EU regulates more frequently and more rigorously than the U.S. -- especially when it comes to consumer protection.
- Given the growing impact of the Brussels regulatory agenda, a number of major U.S. multinationals are opening offices there in order to help influence the decision-making process.
- There are now about 10,000 lobbyists in Brussels representing some 1,400 companies and nonprofit organizations from around the world.
- That compares to some 16,000 lobbyists in Washington.
- Experts report that EU rules often cause heightened friction in high-tech fields -- such as software, electronic commerce and biotechnology.
European regulatory philosophy differs in some important respects from the American variety. For example, when it comes to consumer or environmental protection, EU regulators invoke what they call the "precautionary principle" -- which amounts to a better-safe-than-sorry approach.
And American producers are increasingly being governed by such rules.
Source: Brandon Mitchener, "Increasingly, Rules of Global Economy Are Set in Brussels," Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2002.
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