Sunday, February 25, 2007

An economic argument for pre-emptive U.S. nano regulations

Stratfor, a global intelligence consultancy, just released new predictions for global industry regulations, including nanotechnology. Even though their analyses severely underestimate the importance of country-specific communication and opinion environments, one aspect of their argument is well taken. Regulations in Europe or other G8 countries will directly impact regulatory efforts (or attempts to avoid regulations) in the U.S.

And it therefore make sense for U.S. corporations to establish standards preemptively before interest groups and opponents of nanotech have an opportunity to frame the issue around the need for consistent global rules. Or to turn the argument around: It could be a very effective strategy for organizations who are pushing for more regulations of nanotech to promote global governing bodies or even industry norms in order to force the issue onto the domestic agenda.
Here's an excerpt from the Stratfor report:

"Many countries are beginning to investigate methods for regulating nanotech applications, particularly with consumer safety considerations in mind, but none yet have put forth a comprehensive regulation. If a successful movement for regulation of nanotechnology develops in Europe or Japan, the precedent would change the situation facing the industry markedly. With that in mind, the U.S. nanotech industry could drum up support for its preferred regulatory structure from a group considered credible in the United States (for example, the Harvard Medical School or the National Research Council), but this would not ensure that a country with greater influence among U.S. legislators (the European Union or Japan) wouldn't be able to sway the course of U.S. policy.

The crucial point, of course, has little to do with the future of nanotechnology regulation, but rather with the fact that industry and other interest groups increasingly will find themselves monitoring social and political events worldwide -- including regions in which they have no market ambitions -- simply in order to shore up their regulatory efforts in the United States or other countries of primary concern."

(Click here for the full Stratfor story.)