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Remarks at theTransatlantic Consumer Dialogue Conference

E. Anthony Wayne, Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Remarks at theTransatlantic Consumer Dialogue Conference
Washington, DC, April 18, 2005


Welcome to Washington. This is a beautiful time of year to visit and I hope you all are enjoying your stay here. I want to especially welcome and thank the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Kyprianou, for traveling to Washington to attend this meeting. We know that his portfolio keeps him very busy in Brussels -- we, at times, may not always agree with all the EU's decisions in this area and vice versa, but we certainly respect the commitment of Mr. Kyprianou and his team to protect public health, consumers' rights and animal welfare.

In an age that seems to bring change ever more rapidly in a world where we are increasingly interlinked, ensuring the health and safety of our citizens remains a fundamental priority on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today, the U.S. and the EU have among the most integrated economies on earth. Our $2.5 trillion per year economic relationship creates and supports jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. We are each other's largest investor and those investments support an incredibly diverse array of goods and services that we trade with each other every day. As important as our trade relationship is, our investment relationship is an even more significant expression of our long-term commitment to each other's success.

The U.S. is committed to this Transatlantic partnership. We realize that in the ever more integrated and interdependent world in which we live, we often face shared challenges to our shared objectives. In the multilateral area, the U.S. and EU are committed to increasing growth in the transatlantic marketplace and around the globe. We have worked closely to push the Doha Development Round forward because we both know that more open and transparent market economies and more liberal trade and investment offer benefits to consumers and producers around the world. In the bilateral arena, we are constantly looking both for new areas of cooperation and for ways to intensify our existing cooperation.

Ten years ago, I had the privilege to work with Commissioner Kyprianou's counterparts in the Commission to devise the New Transatlantic Agenda. One part of this agenda was "building bridges" among our people, and a few years later, the TACD was established to help accomplish this. This 7th annual Transatlantic Consumers' Dialogue is part of an important process that allows policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic to benefit from input from as many voices as possible. TACD is especially well-placed to do this, representing a diverse group of US and European organizations with 20 million active members and we welcome hearing your views.

At the June 2004 Summit, President Bush and his European counterparts committed to developing a "forward-looking strategy to enhance our economic partnership and eliminate barriers." Leaders instructed the U.S.-EU Senior Level Group to present ideas before the 2005 summit based in part on a "vigorous discussion" among stakeholders about "how to further transatlantic economic integration to the fullest, spur innovation and job creation, and better realize the competitive potential of our economies," in conjunction with an assessment by senior officials of the bilateral relationship. The stakeholders' dialogue grew from that meeting and over the last year, has resulted in more than a dozen meetings full of productive discussion. I have read, with interest, the results of these meetings including, of course, TACD recommendations. Many of these recommendations will be discussed during this conference. The topics - which range from airline security to internet spam -- emphasize the broad array of challenges and opportunities we face together -- and the broad scope of our transatlantic partnership.

During our outreach efforts, stakeholders have told us:

We need to create secure and safe air, sea and land transportation systems that facilitate the rapid and efficient movement of goods and people;
They want our governments to cooperate where possible and work with the private sector to foster innovation and growth;
They want a transatlantic capital market where they can confidently access a larger pool of capital and more investment opportunities; and
They want U.S. and European legislators and regulators to cooperate more closely so we can have regimes that protect the interests of consumers or investors without creating unnecessary burdens on commerce.

On this last point, I appreciate TACD's strong advocacy for a transatlantic economic partnership that is based on open processes and advances best practices.

We recognize that no one has a monopoly on good ideas and we support productive, thoughtful and lively exchanges between and among our policy makers, regulators, and interested stakeholders. We also recognize, however, in a time when we face new and increasing pressures -- demographic, competitive -- we must use resources wisely to meet our goals. We are discussing with European counterparts how best we can accomplish that.

This conference is a continuation of this transatlantic dialogue. The agenda reflects many of the same themes, and the experts invited to speak to these issues should promote thoughtful discussion of progress we have made together and steps we might take in the future.

In looking through the agenda I see many areas where we are striving to achieve good results based on shared values. Even where we are employing different approaches, our goals are the same -- to effectively and efficiently protect the health and well-being of our citizens and the environment. Divergences in regulatory approaches -- unless based on sound reasons -- can impose large costs with little or no benefits. Given the largely equivalent results of our regulations, there are real benefits to consumers if we can use similar regulatory approaches or conclude mutual recognition agreements. Frequent exchanges and a flourishing dialogue between our regulators can increase mutual understanding and confidence and advance best practices. Creative, cooperative collaboration can lead to innovative approaches. Increased transparency will allow stakeholders to shape solutions to our shared challenges.

Increased regulatory cooperation -- based on the increased trust and confidence which flow from increased familiarity with counterparts -- can help us ensure that divergences do not become a pretext for protectionism nor feed unwarranted fears designed to justify the building of regulatory "fortresses" which create barriers between the exchange of people, goods, services and capital. If we can reduce existing barriers -- and prevent creation of new ones -- we may be able to improve standards of living around the globe. I believe we can build a Transatlantic space in which we can be freer, more prosperous and more secure than we are today -- and that we can share those benefits with others in the developed and developing world.

As we go forward together, I should note that it is sometimes difficult for governments to find new areas where we can usefully undertake new bilateral initiatives because U.S.-EU commercial and economic relations are so extensive and already at such sophisticated levels. Groups such as the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, which represent the interests of consumers in our increasingly intertwined and interdependent communities, have an opportunity to play a crucial role in the development of joint solutions to shared problems. They can inform governments of emerging concerns of consumers and ensure that the interests of consumers are reflected in shared solutions. Neither the United States nor the European. Union can meet complex, global threats and challenges alone. Nor can our governments find the best solutions to such threats and challenges without the active participation of our citizenry.

For example, I note that childhood obesity is on the agenda this afternoon. This issue is of increased importance to the U.S., where obesity is now known as a major health risk. But it is not an "American" problem. Commissioner Kyprianou highlighted this as one of his major priorities shortly after entering office. A disease of prosperity, our access to first class health care and research make obesity a problem that can be addressed cooperatively.

Obesity, as such, may not be a part of our economic agenda, but it will be a part of a broader agenda between our governments, regulatory agencies and heath care authorities. The potential solutions involve diverse sectors of our societies. Improved physical and nutritional education for children balanced with better choices of ingredients and formulas for food processors. Increased public health programs twinned with urban planning that creates neighborhoods where walking is safe and enjoyable. Our societies will solve this issue by drawing upon the best ideas of experts in many disciplines. By sharing information and insights about promising approaches, I trust we will be able to address this issue more effectively and sooner to the benefit of all our kids.

I've been speaking for way too long and I'm really interested to hear as much as possible of the other speakers this morning. I apologize that my schedule will not permit me to stay for all of the speakers today, but I look forward to hearing from my staff on the full conference. In particular, I am interested in hearing Commissioner Kyprianou's views and without further ado, welcome him to the podium. Thank you all for participating in this conference.

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Updated: December 2005