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Obama Executive Order Aims to Help Harmonize U.S., International Regulations

President Barack Obama signed an executive order earlier this week that seeks to promote greater international regulatory cooperation. Specifically, the order directs U.S. regulators to take the international implications of their work into account when issuing new rules.

The order was built on the tenets of another order signed by the president last year. "Executive Order 13563 of January 18, 2011 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review), states that our regulatory system must protect public health, welfare, safety and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness and job creation," said the president in this week's order. "In an increasingly global economy, international regulatory cooperation, consistent with domestic law and prerogatives and U.S. trade policy, can be an important means of promoting the goals of Executive Order 13563."

Improving trade has been something of a lynchpin in the Obama Administration's economic efforts. Trade also happens to be one of the only policy areas where the president's positions don't run afoul of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In response to this most recent executive order, Sean Heather, vice president of the Chamber's Center for Global Regulatory Cooperation, issued a gushing statement firmly touting the benefits of a sound approach to regulatory harmonization.

"This landmark executive order recognizes that good regulatory policy supports good trade policy," he said. "Dialogue between U.S. regulators and their foreign counterparts can avert unnecessary divergences in regulation that become 'behind the border' barriers to commerce and hinder the ability of U.S. companies to reach the 95% of the world's consumers that live beyond our borders."

Heather noted that certain regulators have already begun to move toward this sort of international cooperation, but not systematically and not always in a well-coordinated fashion. "This executive order provides a much-needed political emphasis and sharpens the administration's focus on international regulatory cooperation," he added.

Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer