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To date, the negotiations over chemicals in the Translatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have not shown sufficient ambition. The talks have focused too much on the differences in the two ‘systems’, rather than on the actual levels of health and environmental protection for substances regulated by both the US and the EU. Given the accomplishments within the OECD and the UN Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), the question is whether TTIP can be any more ambitious in the area of chemicals? We find that there is no detailed or systematic knowledge about how the two levels of protection in chemicals compare, although caricatures and stereotypes abound. This is partly due to an obsessive focus on a single US federal law, the Toxic Subtances Control Act (TSCA), whereas in practice US protection depends on many statutes and regulations, as well as on voluntary withdrawals (under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency) and severe common law liability. This paper makes the economic case for firmly addressing the regulatory barriers, discusses the EU’s proposals, finds that the European Parliament’s Resolution on TTIP of July 2015 lacks a rationale (for chemicals), argues that both TSCA and REACH ought to be improved (based on ‘better regulation’), discusses the link with a global regime, advocates significant improvement of market access where equivalence of health and environmental objectives is agreed and, finally, proposes to lower the costs for companies selling in both markets by allowing them to opt into the other party’s more stringent rules, thereby avoiding duplication while racing-to-the-top.
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