Earlier this month, Helen Medina, USCIB’s senior director for product policy and innovation, took part in the APEC Chemical Dialogue Steering Group and related meetings in Ningbo, China. The sessions were held in concert with the first APEC senior officials meeting of China’s host year.
The goal of the steering group meetings was to prepare for the upcoming APEC Chemical Dialogue meeting in August, which will take place in the northern Chinese city of Harbin.
The Chemical Dialogue is an important forum in which APEC officials and industry representatives come together for public-private dialogue on chemical issues in the Asia-Pacific region. It affords industry representatives an opportunity to work with regulators and trade officials from the APEC economies on a variety of project-based issues.
Prior to the steering group sessions, there was an industry meeting in which industry participants gathered to discuss their priorities going forward and to formulate industry-wide positions, which were then discussed with their government counterparts. During the discussion about the types of outcomes industry is seeking, Medina made an intervention about the importance of having the downstream user’s perspective in the work.
Medina also suggested that, in order to promote the common goal of regulatory coherence throughout the economies participating, it would be useful to identify the projects that each of these initiatives is undertaking that relates to the regulation of chemicals, and to describe the work that is being done.
The major themes of the steering group meeting dealt with regulatory cooperation and concrete projects. One item of particular importance to USCIB members is how confidential business information is being treated in APEC economies. USCIB has taken a lead by developing a survey to address this question.
Medina presented the objectives and importance of the survey. She reminded participants that no other international governmental organization, such as APEC, is discussing this topic and that the chemical dialogue has the opportunity to produce a work project to better understand how APEC economies are sharing information.
Once information has been gathered from the survey, the goal would be to foster a discussion on how the Chemical Dialogue can work to converge on how economies protect confidential business information, and what type of information is considered confidential. The analysis of the results will be reported in Harbin later this year.
Other items discussed included a proposal for a workshop on regulatory cooperation at the Harbin meeting, which won wide support. The goal is to highlight issues to consider when implementing best practices for chemical management. USCIB will volunteer to be on the steering committee which will develop the workshop.
Another item, which comes under the theme of sustainability, was related to a Cooperative Activity in the Asia-Pacific on Marine Debris. The idea is to a establish a work stream to promote regional awareness and adoption of strategies to effectively manage and extract value from municipal solid waste, and to energize collaborative approaches to reducing plastic marine debris, including efforts to reduce plastic packaging through innovative product. This work could also contribute to broader APEC work on ocean issues.
Finally, Medina updated APEC members on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) UN Environment Program-led project on Chemicals in Products. She highlighted industry’s concerns with the project and urged Chemical Dialogue members to get in touch with SAICM representatives that are involved. Given the importance of the project, participants agreed that it is imperative to keep this item on the agenda for the Chemical Dialogue in Harbin.
At the end of the meeting, Ryan Macfarlane, the State Department’s principal APEC coordinator, was formally introduced as chair of the Chemical Dialogue, succeeding Barbara Norton of USTR, who has retired.
Staff contact: Helen Medina