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Talks to ease insurance barriers between U.S., E.U. gain traction

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Insurer groups hope that a just-concluded round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union will lead to lower barriers for U.S. insurers seeking to do business in the E.U.

U.S. and E.U. negotiators met in Brussels last week to discuss a future bilateral agreement relating to prudential insurance and reinsurance measures, including the establishment of a covered agreement, an accord between the U.S. and one or more foreign governments, authorities or regulatory entities, regarding prudential measures with respect to insurance or reinsurance. The Federal Insurance Office and the United States Trade Representative can jointly negotiate a covered agreement.

“Both (the U.S. and E.U.) continued to discuss in good faith matters relating to group supervision, exchange of confidential information between supervisory authorities on both sides and reinsurance supervision, including collateral,” said the negotiators in a joint statement issued last week. “E.U. and U.S. representatives exchanged concrete ideas in a constructive atmosphere and addressed next steps toward completing negotiations in a timely manner.”

Insurance groups generally praised the negotiations.

“AIA is pleased that officials from both sides met again to work toward a covered agreement on insurance prudential measures, and we hope that a final agreement that creates prudential recognition between the United States and the European Union can be completed in the very near future,” Steve Simchak, director of international affairs for the Washington-based American Insurance Association, said in a statement.

Mr. Simchak said that since the European Union's Solvency II directive came into force Jan. 1, “barriers to U.S. insurance groups being able to compete on a level playing field in Europe have grown steadily” and that the regulatory treatment of U.S. insurers and reinsurers “is worsening, harming the ability of U.S. insurers to operate in Europe.”

He added, though, that the AIA believes “a covered agreement can lower these obstacles for U.S. insurers in Europe and encourage greater cooperation between regulators in both markets as well as other regulators in the future.”

“One of PCI's main objectives is U.S.-E.U. mutual recognition of each other's insurance regulatory regimes,” Bob Woody, Washington-based vice president-policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, said in an email. “One system should not be imposed on the other, and U.S. companies should not be disadvantaged in Europe.”