Think tank: Is China taking the road to Reach?

29 June 2009 00:00  [Source: ICB]

Possible changes to China's environmental laws are causing consternation among chemical importers.

Proposals put forward on May 21 for closed consultation among ministries look as if they could cause problems for suppliers to the world's fastest-growing market for chemicals.

The measures have been called "China's Reach" after the chemical control system adopted by the EU. They could introduce a raft of new rules that appear to be very like those adopted under Reach.

The EU system thus far has been a bureaucratic nightmare for producers and users of chemicals throughout the supply chain.

Changes to China's Measures on the Environmental Control of New Chemical Substances of 2003 are set to introduce elements of Reach to China.

These include registration along tonnage bands, a system that underpins the EU Reach regulation; more toxicological testing; and classification of chemicals into groups.

Substances would be categorized as general chemicals, hazardous chemicals or chemicals of environmental concern.

An existing system of notification and registration of chemicals would be retained but more detailed registration would be needed for new substances in bands of 1 tonne and more.

Generally, more data would be required the higher the volume of a substance that is sold in China. Like Reach, registration would only be possible through a domestic entity and a joint notification system adopted to reduce the data burden and to ease the data gathering process.

According to the Korea Environmental Council in Europe (KECE), if a producer or importer has registered a hazardous chemical or one of environmental concern, they will have to provide production or import statistics and a production or import plan to a "chemical registration center."

The proposed regulations are seen as being potentially problematic for foreign chemical manufactures or importers because only China-generated eco-toxicological data would be acceptable for registration, the KECE says.

So, as Chinese companies struggle to come to terms with Reach, their own authorities look set to introduce a package of measures that would mimic Reach in so many respects.

But this is a trend across northeast Asia, research published by KECE last year suggests. More Reach-type rules are on the way to being adopted in Japan and South Korea. China is some way behind, but these latest moves show that it is intent on catching up.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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