Bookmark and Share


Eyes on Trade

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch blog on globalization and trade


What's New – Global Trade Watch

View 'What's New' Archives

Public Citizen | Mutual Recognition Agreements - Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs)

Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs)

Since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, U.S. and European officials have accelerated transatlantic efforts to develop and apply three important trade promotion devices: harmonization, equivalence, and mutual recognition (MR). Their goal has been to reduce what industry considers to be technical barriers to trade posed by national regulatory requirements. WTO agreements governing trade in food and other products specifically instructs nations to engage in these efforts. Because of their potential to reduce costs to industry, these trade facilitation tools have been promoted heavily by industry groupings such as the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD). TABD is a coalition of major U.S.- and EU-based corporations that dominate transatlantic trade in goods and services.

The three trade promotion mechanisms are closely related but are not interchangeable. Harmonization and equivalence are both methods for bringing about regulatory convergence or uniformity. Harmonization takes two differing standards or procedures and converts them into one. Equivalence allows two differing standards or procedures to remain intact but treats them as if they were the same because in theory at least they produce the same or similar results.

Mutual recognition, however, is different. With respect to consumer products, MRAs are agreements between countries to recognize and accept the results of conformity assessments performed by conformity assessment bodies (CABs) of the countries that are parties to the agreement. Conformity assessment is the process by which products are measured against the various technical, safety, purity, and quality standards that governments impose on products. The basis of this mutual recognition is the use of the importing country's tests and standards. Such MRAs allow an exporting country's CABs to use the tests and standards of the importing country in evaluating products, thereby potentially reducing the number of CABs that must evaluate a product destined for multiple markets. In 1998, the U.S. negotiated a far reaching MRA with the European union covering six product areas: telecommunications equipment, electromagnetic compatibility, electrical safety, recreational craft, pharmaceutical good manufacturing practices, and medical devices.

For more information, see the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue's Background Paper on Mutual Recognition Agreements.

Copyright © 2016 Public Citizen. Some rights reserved. Non-commercial use of text and images in which Public Citizen holds the copyright is permitted, with attribution, under the terms and conditions of a Creative Commons License. This Web site is shared by Public Citizen Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation. Learn More about the distinction between these two components of Public Citizen.

Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation


Together, two separate corporate entities called Public Citizen, Inc. and Public Citizen Foundation, Inc., form Public Citizen. Both entities are part of the same overall organization, and this Web site refers to the two organizations collectively as Public Citizen.

Although the work of the two components overlaps, some activities are done by one component and not the other. The primary distinction is with respect to lobbying activity. Public Citizen, Inc., an IRS § 501(c)(4) entity, lobbies Congress to advance Public Citizen’s mission of protecting public health and safety, advancing government transparency, and urging corporate accountability. Public Citizen Foundation, however, is an IRS § 501(c)(3) organization. Accordingly, its ability to engage in lobbying is limited by federal law, but it may receive donations that are tax-deductible by the contributor. Public Citizen Inc. does most of the lobbying activity discussed on the Public Citizen Web site. Public Citizen Foundation performs most of the litigation and education activities discussed on the Web site.

You may make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., Public Citizen Foundation, or both. Contributions to both organizations are used to support our public interest work. However, each Public Citizen component will use only the funds contributed directly to it to carry out the activities it conducts as part of Public Citizen’s mission. Only gifts to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Individuals who want to join Public Citizen should make a contribution to Public Citizen, Inc., which will not be tax deductible.


To become a member of Public Citizen, click here.
To become a member and make an additional tax-deductible donation to Public Citizen Foundation, click here.