11 February 2002 00:00 [Source: ICB Americas]European Union (EU) governments are showing concern over the economic impact from a new registration system for chemicals that is being proposed by the European Commis-sion, the EU executive.
Under the proposals, detailed in a White Paper or discussion document, around 80 percent of 30,000 chemicals with over a 1-ton-per-year output will have to be registered with basic product data. Most of the remaining 20 percent will have to be submitted to in-depth and tailor-made evaluations.
While supporting the objectives of the White Paper, the EU chemical industry has warned that without radical changes, the proposals are unworkable and would be extremely costly.
Now EU governments with large chemical sectors are becoming concerned about the potential damage to chemicals production through a loss of competitiveness and innovation.
Lord Sainsbury, UK minister for science and innovation, told a London conference organized by the country's Chemical Industries Association (CIA) that the White Paper is a good starting point for achieving a balance between the need for public confidence in chemicals and for the chemical industry to maintain global competitiveness.
"As they stand, the proposals do not provide a workable solution," he says. "There is a real issue of practicality. Also, if you start trying to do everything, you may put a blanket on innovation. It's the stopping of innovation, which is the greatest area of concern."
The UK government has just an-nounced setting up a task force, headed by Byron Grote, head of BP's chemicals operation, to look at ways of improving the ability of UK companies to face the challenges of the global chemicals market.
The force--called an innovation and growth team (IGT)--is being created in the wake of a continuing shrinking of the UK's manufacturing sector. Last year the country's manufacturing output declined by 5.5 percent.
In Germany, the federal government has also been demonstrating a deeper understanding of the implications of the White Paper's proposals for its chemicals industry, the largest in Europe.
"We are seeing growing concern in the German government about the consequences of the European Commis-sion's plans," says an official at the German chemical industry association. "It is now acknowledging that there are going to be more economic and social effects than it first realized."
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