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N.Y.U. Journal of Legislation & Public Policy



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With the increasing trade tensions between the United States and China, pressures created by Brexit, and the COVID-19 pandemic, most trade scholars have focused on rising protectionism exhibited through defensive strategies such as tariffs and export controls. However, this focus ignores the fundamental shift in international trade goals of the United States and the European Union towards a values-based trade agenda.

Instead of merely focusing on free trade based on efficiency and market access, trade regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have independently pursued measures designed to address environmental sustainability and social equity. These policies resonate with their domestic constituencies and allows them to promote their values along global supply chains. These values-based agendas, however, are likely to create new trade conflicts rather than partnerships. This is due in part to the fact that the transatlantic trade relationship remains embedded in international regulatory frameworks predominantly focused on efficiency gains and cutting red tape to ease the flow of products and services.

Through two comparative case studies on cosmetics and medical devices, we highlight how the promotion of competitive liberalization in transatlantic trade has not generated the promised harmonization result. Instead, it has created social and environmental inequities. The case studies point out that to incorporate social and environmental equity adjustments for vulnerable and marginalized communities, trade regulators, negotiators, and lawyers alike ought to assess the ex-ante distributive effects in regulatory cooperation and the ex-post enforcement tools of regulation of their valuesbased trade agenda.



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