In 2011, a high-level working group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG) was tasked by EU and US leaders to analyse possibilities for increasing transatlantic trade and investment. In its interim report, the HLWG proposed the conclusion of a comprehensive EU-US trade and investment agreement, to tackle tariff and non-tariff barriers (including regulatory divergences in a number of sectors), services, government procurement, etc.
Non-tariff barriers and regulatory divergence were identified as the main challenge for the agreement. Stemming from different values, public preferences and different approaches towards risk management, these regulatory issues are greatest in the fields of protection of health, safety and the environment. Efforts in transatlantic regulatory cooperation date back to the 1990s, but progress has been difficult to achieve, in particular in areas such as consumer and food safety, intellectual property rights and data protection, in which transatlantic trade disputes have emerged.
The negotiations for the new EU-US agreement are expected to include efforts to align standards and regulation, but its impact on longstanding divergences (such as those mentioned above) is hard to predict.