27 June 2003 16:05 [Source: ICIS news]
The chemical industry has clearly gained strong support from the heads of European governments in its objections to the scope and workability of Reach, the proposed European chemicals registration, evaluation and authorisation system.
Coming towards the end of an internet discussion period for the Reach proposals (due to end on 12 July) the industry is expected to respond officially to Reach within the next few days. Individual countries, companies and organisations, some of them outside Europe, will follow suit.
Support is being gained from international players, trade bodies and governments against proposals which look increasingly as if they will have to be modified extensively. Yet sight cannot be lost of the main thrust of Europe’s new chemicals policy which is to drive sustainability and better health, safety and environmental protection.
That much was clear from the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Protection report on chemicals in products which yesterday (26 June) called for unilateral British action on chemicals control to tackle a potential bureaucratic nightmare for Europe. Cefic president Eggert Voscherau stressed today at the European Chemical Industry Council's (Cefic’s) general assembly in Hamburg that the European chemical industry needs a common European approach to chemicals legislation but not a re-writing of the whole system.
In general terms, the chemical industry underwrites the purpose of Reach. But it has real problems with the how. The Cefic general assembly, attended by industry chief executives from Europe, North America and Japan, heard presentations from German chancellor Gerhard Schroder, European Commission Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen and Klaus Topfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep).
Voscherau has worked hard to gain the support of Schroder and the German government as well as other European heads of state in his ideas about taking European industrial policy forward and opening up the debate about Europe’s industrial competitiveness. And there is no doubt that the approach is widely appreciated by the heads of companies operating in Europe. But there are dangers. The industry has to be careful not to dig itself into an untenable position in which it is always on the defensive. It needs to adopt a positive approach to chemicals control which works from the marketplace up. It is fine playing the strong industrial policy card but that has to be balanced by an approach which identifies the fact that market forces are driving the search for new, cleaner and ‘greener’ products.
In many respects the chemical industry is a test case because it is so international and both large and small producers are affected by global trends, regulatory or otherwise. Europe’s small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are clearly most at risk from Reach and the burden it is likely to place on them. And there is the real danger that European chemicals production will be ‘hollowed out’ by the proposed system. At the same time North American, Japanese and producers and traders from other countries are increasingly concerned that Europe is setting out to build new barriers to trade.
The Reach debate, reaching a peak over the coming days and months, offers even more opportunity for the chemicals industry to make its case firmly for a strong vibrant chemicals and manufacturing sector. It also gives companies, trade associations, unions and governments internationally the scope to say what they want from chemicals and the industry in a cleaner but inherently more competitive international environment.
For the latest chemical news, data and analysis that directly impacts your business sign up for a free trial to ICIS news - the breaking online news service for the global chemical industry.
Get the facts and analysis behind the headlines from our market leading weekly magazine: sign up to a free trial to ICIS Chemical Business.
|ICIS news FREE TRIAL|
|Get access to breaking chemical news as it happens.|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX)|
|ICIS Global Petrochemical Index (IPEX). Download the free tabular data and a chart of the historical index|