The EU, China and Product Standards
Routledge Handbook on EU-China Relations (eds. Sebastian Bersick, Kerry Brown, Andrew Cottey, Jorn-Carsten Gottwald and Wei Shen) (Routledge, London, 2017 Forthcoming)
13 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2016 Last revised: 10 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 24, 2016
Product standards are ubiquitous in contemporary societies and trade relations. Reflecting a legal perspective, this chapter considers selected aspects of domestic, bilateral and international product standards in EU-China relations. It gives examples of different types of structures, actors and issues. It argues, first, that product standards may be adopted by numerous sites of governance, ranging from domestic, transnational, regional or international sites, or from public bodies to private organisations or both, and may be legally binding or take the form of ‘soft law’. Second, though appearing to be simply the normative expression of scientific opinion, product standards are not neutral but instead result from politics, negotiation and compromise. Third, they are double-edged in protecting public health while also determining market entry; in fact they may actually create markets. Fourth, the EU and China compete in developing international standards, but they also cooperate in making standards in numerous bilateral and multilateral settings. Each develops its own standards, promotes them internationally and seeks to apply them so far as possible to domestic and foreign products. On the one hand, domestic product standards tend frequently to converge, because in many fields product standards are actually highly transnational, not simply domestic, in origin, culture and content. On the other hand, the setting of product standards in EU-China relations, regardless of the setting, must increasingly be sensitive to domestic characteristics and priorities; this imperative renders more complex the long-standing debate about the normative and economic effects of globalisation.
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