Reach: Unice urges EC not to curb European competitiveness

10 July 2003 17:39  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (CNI)--The European Commission's proposed registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) programme was roundly criticised on Thursday by European employers' federation Unice as a major threat to European competitiveness.

In its contribution to the Internet consultation process, Unice urged the Commission to develop a new Reach scheme which does not put the European Union (EU) at a disadvantage with its international competitors.

      Jurgen Strube
Unice president Jurgen Strube, former chairman of German chemicals group BASF, said his organisation supported the general objectives of Reach to enhance sustainable producton and use of chemicals.

"However, we consider that the situation has not yet been properly analysed. As it looks today, the Reach system risks adding red tape, increasing costs and reducing companies’ incentive to innovate,” he added.

Unice said the Commission should rapidly assess the benefits of Reach not just for sustainable production, but also for the consequences for Europe’s competitiveness and its capacity for innovation, which it said were vital for prosperity and job creation.

It said Reach posed a threat to the production of less profitable chemicals, which might be withdrawn from the market because of high compliance costs. Unice added that fewer substances would limit choice and thus reduce negotiation power with severe consequences for downstream users, and also less potential for innovation.

The federation, which represents more than 16m companies in Europe employing over 106m people, warned that the climate of uncertainty engendered by Reach could hold back investments in the EU and lead to industry relocation to regions outside the EU which offer better potential for competitiveness.

Strube suggested that the Commission should amend Reach by introducing a prioritisation system to tackle the most problematic substances first, a proposal common to many submissions on the proposals.

 “The Commission should also launch pilot projects to assess real impacts at company level," added Strube. "The claimed health and environmental benefits of this regulatory experiment are not clear. We call on the Commission to consider all the components of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) in order to develop a new and better Reach system which does not penalise the EU as compared with its international competitors”.

Unice said it expects the Competitiveness Council to play a dominant role in development of the chemicals legislative package.

By: Neil Sinclair
+44 20 8652 3214

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