I recently spent three days with colleagues in Brussels attending a meeting of the Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), forum formed a dozen years ago by consumer advocates in America and Europe. The forum is intended to bring together US and EU consumer organizations to provide a consumer perspective and input to government officials on issues as diverse as product safety, privacy, food safety, financial services, and intellectual property. There’s a Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue that has a powerful voice at the European Union meetings – the TACD provides a critical counterweight to that as well.
We met with the US Ambassador to Brussels William Kennard and Commissioner Dalli from the European Union for health and safety – they shared their agenda, and we shared ours. But equally important is the cross-fertilization of ideas that comes from hearing what our European colleagues are working on – their successes, their failures (yes, those are important too!), and what work we can do together.
Last night over a glass of Jupiler, the Belgian Budweiser, a German colleague and I discussed the possibility of taking NCL’s work on table saw safety to Germany and perhaps Denmark. The German consumer groups work closely with the trade unions, many of whose members use table saws as they build homes or office buildings in Germany’s booming economy.
The consumer voice is critical – we represent the interests of many millions of consumers in the United States and Europe. We owe a debt of gratitude to American colleagues like Rhoda Karpatkin, the visionary former head of Consumers Union, and Jamie Love, whose work on intellectual property is legendary. They took this idea of having consumers on either side of the Atlantic meet and collaborate and built it into a thriving TACD.