NPRA ’11: US to benefit if Reach migrates to other countries

26 March 2011 22:29  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--The migration of European chemical control requirements to other nations may give US petrochemical producers and downstream chemical makers a competitive advantage, a top industry official said on Saturday.

Jim Cooper, vice president for petrochemicals at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said that if nations outside of the EU should begin adopting the EU’s controversial programme for the registration, evaluation, application and restriction of chemicals (Reach), their chemical industries will be at a competitive disadvantage to the US.

Speaking on the eve of the 36th annual International Petrochemical Conference (IPC), Cooper noted that South Korea recently has proposed a new control programme for chemicals in commerce that largely duplicates the EU Reach.

He said that it is no secret that EU officials have been actively trying to get other nations adopt Reach.

“It’s in the EU’s interest to get other countries in Reach so that they [Europe] won’t be disadvantaged,” Cooper said.  “That’s why you see members of the European Commission lobbying other countries to do Reach.”

The US petrochemicals industry has long opposed Reach and has fought efforts in the US Congress to recast the principal federal law for chemicals control - the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) - as a Reach-like system.

US chemical producers warn that Reach ultimately will choke off chemicals sector innovation and growth in Europe.

“I don’t see the US adopting a Reach-style reform of TSCA,” Cooper said, “and I see us gaining competitive advantage by not following that path.”

Cooper and others in the US chemicals sector contend that the risk-based, science-based criteria underlying TSCA will continue to enable innovation and new product development more so than the precautionary approach that forms the foundation of Reach.

Exactly how that contest is resolved might not be known for years, he said.

“Reach is still in its infancy,” he said.  “They’ve just now completed their first round of data collection, and what they do with that information and how long it takes for them to fully implement Reach remains to be seen.  We won’t know the full impact of Reach on the EU economy for some time.”

In the meantime, Cooper holds that the US approach to control of chemicals in commerce will continue to give the US advantage over process industries in the EU and any other nations that adopt the European programme.

Sponsored by NPRA, the IPC runs through Tuesday, 29 March.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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