American and European Perspectives on Private Standards in Public Law

46 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2016 Last revised: 26 Jan 2017

Date Written: December 2016


For over a century, the United States and Europe have relied on private organizations to develop and maintain the vast number of technical standards essential for technological advancement, trade, and public safety in any complex, modern society. Today, the United States and the European Union each have a well-established policy requiring the use of private standards in government regulation. Although these policies have much in common, they differ in several key respects. One consequence of these policy differences is that the two governments often use different technical standards to regulate the same goods and processes. In the ongoing free trade negotiations, standards policy thus is viewed as a significant potential source of nontariff barriers to trade. Some have suggested that the United States should modify its standards policy in certain respects in order to address this issue and facilitate a free trade agreement with the European Union.

This Article explores the often subtle differences in the private standardization systems and governmental standards policies in the United States and the European Union. It argues that some of these differences reflect discretionary policy choices attributable to each government’s unique history, economic reality, and political commitments. On these issues, both governments have greater latitude to modify their approach to achieve international regulatory harmonization. On other issues, however, fundamental principles of public law constrain how these governments integrate private standards into their regulatory regimes. Any free trade agreement must respect these constraints and accommodate some necessary degree of divergence between U.S. and EU standards policies. In addition to having immediate relevance for the trade negotiations, this Article’s comparative analysis may also help to identify the possibilities and limitations of any governmental framework for public-private regulatory integration.

Keywords: administrative law, private standards, standardization, voluntary consensus standards, public law, European Union, comparative law, international trade, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, public private partnership

JEL Classification: K23, K33

Suggested Citation

Bremer, Emily S., American and European Perspectives on Private Standards in Public Law (December 2016). 91 Tulane Law Review 325 (2016). Available at SSRN:

Emily S. Bremer (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States
5746311511 (Phone)

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics