Regulating Regulation: Impact Assessment and Trade

In Megaregulation Contested: Global Economic Ordering After TPP (Benedict Kingsbury et al. eds. 2019)

Michael A. Livermore and Jason Schwartz

Recent generations of international trade agreements have attempted to address non-tariff barriers in various ways, including by encouraging the adoption of regulatory impact assessment (RIA) by national governments. This chapter examines the benefits of RIA for trade in light of experience over the past several decades. It argues that, although misunderstanding of the nature of RIA has likely led to some false hopes, given the right institutional setting, RIA can help avoid irrational regulatory conflict that unnecessarily hampers trade.

Specifically, RIA is unlikely to advance the goals of increasing regulatory harmonization, supporting mutual recognition, or reducing regulatory burdens. On the other hand, RIA can enhance the transparency and trade rationality of regulatory decision-making. These two goals can be further advanced if RIA is paired with institutional reforms, such as international secondments, appropriate roles for domestic offices of trade policy in the regulatory process, and sharing best practices and resources, especially with developing countries.

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