In This Review

The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World
The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World
By Anu Bradford
Oxford University Press, 2020, 424 pp

This may well be the single most important book on Europe’s global influence to appear in a decade. Many believe that Europe’s international standing is declining in a world dominated by China and the United States and in which the forces of globalization are creating a race to the bottom that undermines the European model of high regulation and social protection. Bradford demolishes these myths by showing how the European Union’s stringent regulations raise the standards of producers in China, the United States, and other countries across the globe. The EU manages to wield this influence by conditioning access to its market, the world’s second largest, on compliance with its standards. Bradford illustrates this “Brussels effect”—modeled on a similar “California effect,” which intensifies regulations within the United States—with detailed case studies of EU policies in a range of areas, including food safety, data privacy, and environmental protection. Farmers in Nebraska, for instance, grow pesticide-free products so that they meet EU standards. Globally integrated producers of goods as various as chemicals, automobiles, and banking services find that it often makes more business sense to produce just one product line to the highest standard in the world, which is, almost inevitably, that of Europe. Even big technology firms, such as Google and Microsoft, must toe the line of EU antitrust and cartel policy.