12 November 2002 17:28 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--Over 50 US environmental, public health, community and labour groups have deplored their government's stance towards European Union (EU) chemicals policy reform and demanded that it retract criticism of the proposed changes.
In a letter to President George Bush, the groups urged the US government to recognise the potential benefits to US citizens and businesses of the EU reforms outlined in the white paper, 'Strategy for a future chemicals policy', which includes the Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) system .
The letter said: "The US Administration has developed and actively disseminated a 'non paper', which is highly critical of the European proposals for reform."
It continued: "We find it particularly troubling that the views expressed in the 'non paper' closely reflect the narrow interests of a few US chemical manufacturers, to the exclusion of public health and environmental advocates, and of the vast majority of the American public who support more aggressive actions to prevent potential adverse effects of chemicals on their health."
Chemicals companies are concerned that the implementation of the white paper will impose huge financial burdens on chemical companies and may cripple small and medium sized enterprises (SME).
Sector fears over the costs of the white paper implementation were apparent last week at the annual Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) group meeting when leaders from the US and European chemical sectors met European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy to discuss the major trade impact of the proposals before the formal draft is published in the first quarter of next year.
Latest estimates from the European Commission (EC) predict the reforms will cost businesses Euro1.7bn-Euro7bn ($1.72bn-$7.09bn) but European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) president Eric Voscherau warned that the proposals will affect 1.7m jobs in European chemicals companies and millions more in downstream operations.
Although the letter signatories admit that the reforms will involve financial burdens on businesses, they said the EC estimates total between 0.1% and 1.4% of annual chemical sales in the European Union (EU).
European Environmental Bureau (EEB) secretary general John Hontelez backed up US environmental group's argument: "EU chemicals policy reform will create new markets for companies that employ cleaner processes to create cleaner products."
To ensure transparency the signatories have demanded that "the Administration, through the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Trade Representative, Commerce Department and State Department, solicit public comments from the American people - including but not limited to non governmental organisations (NGO) and business - to formulate a forward looking position on chemicals policy".
WWF senior toxics programme officer Michael Warhurst said: "This letter is evidence of broad grassroots support in the US for government policies that protect people, wildlife and ecosystems from chemical contamination."
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