The Brussels Effect

Bradford, Anu | December 1, 2012

This Article examines the unprecedented and deeply underestimated global power that the European Union is exercising through its legal institutions and standards, and how it successfully exports that influence to the rest of the world. Without the need to use international institutions or seek other nations’ cooperation, the EU has a strong and growing ability to promulgate regulations that become entrenched in the legal frameworks of developed and developing markets alike, leading to a notable “Europeanization” of many important aspects of global commerce. The Article identifies the precise conditions for and the specific mechanism through which this externalization of EU’s standards unfolds. Enhanced understanding of these conditions and this mechanism helps explain why the EU is currently the only jurisdiction that can wield unilateral influence across a number of areas of law—ranging from antitrust and privacy to health and environmental regulation—and why the markets, other states, and international institutions can do little to constrain Europe’s global regulatory power.