An Issue Where Presidential Leadership Would Help

A blog about business and economics.
June 11 2013 5:13 PM

TTIP: An Issue Where Presidential Leadership Really Would Do Some Good

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

Photo by Yuri Gripas - Pool/Getty Images

Barack Obama has largely played a low-key role on immigration reform, and that's largely been a good thing. By not putting himself aggressively out in front of the issue, he's avoided the hyper-polarization of the debate that tends to come from presidential involvement. Kevin Drum wonders whether we're really living in a world where this is what all the smart money thinks—that the president who leads best leads least visibly.

One counterexample that's come up a lot on my trip to visit with European Union officials is the idea of a Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that Obama endorsed in his State of the Union Address and that the European Commission is set to formally begin a negotiating process on Friday. There are a lot of potential parts to a TTIP but one key area is regulatory harmonization. Right now, for example, car safety standards in the U.S. and EU are quite different even though car safety outcomes are similar. And right now the FDA and its European counterparts do separate inspections of pharmaceutical facilities on both sides of the Atlantic even though, again, drugs are similarly safe in the U.S. and EU. In principle, it should be possible to eliminate this kind of duplication of effort on a wide array of consumer safety issues. But actually doing it isn't just a traditional negotiating process in which officials from both sides sign on a dotted line. You actually need the regulators working in the agencies to reach some kind of consensus, and to do that they need some kind of real sense of political direction from up top.

Advertisement

Presidential leadership can't magically conjure up congressional votes for things members of Congress don't want to support. But vocal presidential leadership can make a difference in terms of mobilizing the people working in the executive branch. The managers at any agency are operating at any given time under any number of guidelines from up top, pressures from lobbyists, and requests from Congress. Actions that clarify what the real priority hierarchy is can make a difference. Is this sort of harmonization something the administration really wants to see happen, or was it just something thrown into a State of the Union address and then siloed off into the U.S. trade representative's docket?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 1 2014 12:21 PM How One Entrepreneur Is Transforming Blood Testing
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 12:26 PM Where Do I Start With Leonard Cohen?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.