The chemicals trade cuts across multiple industries and contributes to the production of thousands of different products, from pharmaceuticals to computer microchips. Central to the modern economy, chemicals and products they are used in are traded widely across borders. And because they add value to so many different consumer goods, chemicals are a staple economic building block for the member countries of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
The regulation of chemicals trade was top-of-mind during this year’s third APEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM III) hosted in China, where government regulators met with industry representatives and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities and challenges in the chemicals industry.
Helen Medina, USCIB’s senior director of product policy and innovation, attended SOM III along with a number of member company executives. The meetings took place under the auspices of the APEC Chemical Dialogue, a forum for regulatory officials and industry representatives seeking to advance regulatory dialogue on chemicals trade and achieve environmental protection while minimizing costs to business.
During an industry “pre-meeting,” private-sector representative from the APEC region met to discuss business priorities on chemicals regulation. Of concern to industry included ongoing issues related to EU REACH, such matters related to polymers and the criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors. The APEC region is also increasingly a concern for industry given all the changes in the chemical management systems in China, Korea and Chinese Taipei. Industry is concerned about Confidential Business Information (CBI), and is keen on protecting trade secrets. Business supports striking the right balance between health safety and the protection of intellectual property rights, and to that end industry is backing the implementation of the 2008 Best Practice Principles on chemicals regulation in the APEC economies.
USCIB also convened an industry meeting with officials from the U.S. State Department and USTR. The meeting provided an opportunity for business to show that a wide range of industry sectors are involved in the APEC Chemical Dialogue – companies represented at the meeting included DuPont, American Petroleum Institute, Boeing, the Information Technology Industry Council, the American Chemistry Council, the Nickel Institute and others. The meeting also gave industry a chance to discuss priority issues such as regulatory cooperation and CBI. Industry also noted that chemical regulations shouldn’t disrupt the availability of certain irreplaceable chemicals needed for specialized industries.
Joint Meeting of APEC Regulators’ Forum and OECD New Chemicals Clearing House
USCIB’s Medina also participated in the joint meeting of the APEC Regulators’ Forum with the OECD Clearing House on New Chemicals, which brings together officials from the U.S., Canada and Australia and industry representatives to craft ways to reduce the costs on business associated with new chemical notification reviews while ensuring a high quality of health and safety decisions for new chemicals.
APEC economies provided updates on their chemical management systems, with OECD countries sharing best practices to help developing countries build up their chemical management systems. For example, New Zealand developed a toolbox to help small businesses deal with hazardous substances, and the United States spoke about Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, a program that allows the federal government to buy green products, stimulating market demand for environmentally friendly products and services. The OECD also presented its work on a toolbox that supports the evaluation of alternatives when safer chemical substitutes are sought.
The Regulators’ Forum gives business the opportunity to obtain an overview of the chemical management systems in the APEC economies and how planned changes could impact business. It also gives industry a chance to interact with regulators, as well as learn about what chemicals programs advanced economies are promoting.
Serving as a place where governments can share information about new chemicals going to market, the Clearing House is beneficial to business because companies don’t have to regenerate information about new chemicals. Instead, companies go to one place – the OECD Clearing House – for chemicals evaluation, and then put those chemicals on the market in different countries.
The Clearing House is actively working to include more participants from non-OECD countries in its activities. Since many APEC economies are in the process of updating or creating new chemical management systems, APEC regulators have much to gain from discussions with the OECD Clearing House.
“Our hope is that both APEC economies and industry see the value of the OECD Clearing House on New Chemicals,” Medina said.
Workshop Advances Best Practices on Chemicals Regulation
On Tuesday USCIB’s Medina attended the APEC Chemical Dialogue Regulatory Cooperation Workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to advance the implementation of the 2008 Principles for Best Practice Chemical Regulation and to contribute to APEC’s ongoing efforts to promote regulatory cooperation. USCIB members featured prominently on the agenda and were able to communicate their specific perspectives on why regulatory cooperation is important.
Andy Liu of DuPont gave one industry’s view on the importance of having risk based decision making practices. “We believe risk-based assessments and oversight of chemicals most effectively protect the public and the environment,” said Liu. “Proportionality of oversight and efficient use of available resources by screening, prioritizing, and only generating data that are necessary for decision-making can help stakeholders to minimize risk of chemicals and allow investment in innovations necessary for a brighter future.”
Liu also highlighted the importance of protecting confidential business information so that companies can continue to innovate and bring sustainable solutions to society. While implementing the Globally Harmonized hazards classification and labeling systems in a more consistent manner would lessen the costs to the business.
Participants also heard from Erica Logan, ITIC whose main message was that the electronics industry is leveraging an internationally recognized International Electrotechnical Commission standard to manage relevant Chemicals in Products information throughout the supply chain. “We encourage governments to recognize the value of such standardized approaches for managing chemical information and risk,” said Logan.
Sophia Danenberg of Boeing gave another downstream users perspective. She noted that chemical management systems do impact the aerospace industry and that regulators should consider how chemical regulations impact the availability of high specialized chemicals for use in the aerospace industry.
On a related note, Don Wilke, P&G, talked about principles for substance evaluation and the benefits for having a regulatory framework that allows or encourages the use of analogues and other surrogate data in chemical assessments. Use of analogues reduces animal use, costs and can provide for higher tier information sooner.
“The appropriate use of chemical analogues and read-across information can significantly reduce the unnecessary use of animals in safety testing as well as reduce the costs and the time required for testing,” said Wilke. “This is in line with the Chemical Dialogue Best Practice Principles of efficiency, flexibility and science-based decision making.”
More information about the workshop and its conclusions are forthcoming.
Staff contact: Helen Medina