Historic OIRA Directive: Agencies, Use Domestic Regulatory Relief to Gain International Regulatory Relief

American regulations hobble American companies. Foreign regulations do the same thing. This is nothing new. Over thirty years ago, a senior OIRA official informed the President’s Regulatory Relief Task Force that

Many foreign governments are issuing a significant number of wide ranging regulations which result in unjustified expenditures on U.S. firms. Consequently the best of U.S, regulatory relief programs will not, by themselves, solve the problems created by foreign regulations. The regulations of foreign government often interfere with U.S, exports and the operation of multinational corporations by setting unreasonable product standards, limiting U.S. investment, requiring the use of local labor and materials and requiring that U.S. firms “offset” their sales by agreeing to export products produced by the foreign government.


By linking our domestic regulatory relief program to our international regulatory problems we will be able to utilize increased access to U.S. markets as a means for increasing U.S, access to foreign markets.

To squarely and substantively address American industry’s need for international regulatory relief, the entrepreneurial bureaucrat developed a strategy for (1) using domestic regulatory relief measures as “bargaining chips” that the United States Trade Representative (USTR) could use to “encourage comparable relief by foreign governments by using a ‘carrot for a carrot’ approach in lieu of a ‘stick for a stick’ approach” and (2) implementing it by sending a Memorandum to all agencies subject to Executive Order 12291. The Memorandum informed agencies that

Recognizing that nominally “domestic” regulations often affect international trade, foreign interests are seeking to take advantage of the Administration’s program of eliminating unnecessary trade regulations and reducing the burden of such regulations. They are becoming increasingly active in urging agencies and OMB to expand their efforts to decontrol domestic trade.

At the same time, some foreign countries and interests continue to implement a variety of trade barriers that limit the importation of goods manufactured in the United States. . . .

The Memorandum directed the agencies to inform OIRA of trade-sensitive regulatory activities and related information. Close coordination and information sharing with USTR was a core component of the regulatory relief directive.

OIRA’s Memorandum to the Agencies with a cover note to the Presidential Regulatory Relief Task Force, available here, provides a transaction-based model for leveraging the Administration’s regulatory relief measures already under way.

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