chemicals pilot programs & transparency ?

Two more articles below on the EU-US pilot programs for chemicals

TTIP could “improve global chemical management” says industry

But NGOs think deal will stymie EU chemical regulation

8 August 2014 / Europe,United States

The two chemical pilot projects agreed at the sixth round of the EU and US trade negotiations will contribute to improved global chemicals management, say industry associations on both sides. The response follows an announcement that the two sides have agreed to proceed with the projects, one covering prioritisation of chemicals for assessment, and the other classification and labelling (CW 30 July 2014).

The European Chemical Industry Council’s (Cefic) Lena Perenius says “[the projects] will potentially open up possibilities to find an annex that really brings efficiencies to both sides, while respecting both regulatory structures too ».

Ms Perenius adds that if an agreement is achieved on processes and procedures, that set high standards for the protection of health and the environment, it will “most likely be taken up by other countries around the world”. She says that with the capacity of the EU and US together the agreement will contribute to improved chemicals management globally.

On the US side, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) tells Chemical Watch that the proposed pilot projects are a positive step forward as part of a collective effort to improve how chemicals are managed.

Dow Chemical’s director of government affairs for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Howard Chase agrees, saying that the pilots are a good way of demonstrating the practical, step by step efficiencies that can be obtained in these areas. Mr Chase adds that this will benefit small and medium, as well as large, enterprises and their customers.

« This seems to be consistent with a general sense of solid, practical progress across the entire range of TTIP negotiating issues. In our view, this is exactly what you would be looking for at this stage, » adds Mr Chase.

However, some NGO’s have expressed concerns over the negotiations, saying they actually pose a threat to the safe management of chemicals in Europe. Ninja Reineke of CHEM Trust says that testing the ground for further cooperation between EU and US regulatory approaches will inevitably give regulators half an eye on harmonisation.

“This will lead to a chilling effect on the EU moving forward on chemicals regulation given the lower standards in operation in the US,” she adds.

Transparency has also been a key concern amongst NGOs (CW 6 August 2014). Baskut Tuncak senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) says: “As the « pilot projects » on chemical risk assessment and other aspects of TTIP develop, the public must be given the opportunity to comment on the details of these projects proposed by the US and EU governments, and industry.

“Both the US and EU recognise the importance of informed public participation in their lawmaking processes, but not when lawmaking is framed in the context of a trade negotiation, apparently,” he adds.

Leigh Stringer and Carmen Paun

EU Ombudsman investigates TTIP transparency

NGOs want access to chemical industry documents

6 August 2014 / Europe

The European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened two investigations into the EU Commission and the Council over transparency relating to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently being negotiated with the US.

« Concerns have been raised about key documents not being disclosed, about delays and about the alleged granting of privileged access to TTIP documents to certain stakeholders, » reads an ombudsman statement announcing the investigations.

While acknowledging the transparency efforts made so far by the two institutions regarding the negotiations, Ms O’Reilly makes a number of suggestions to the European Commission which, she says, would improve public access to TTIP documents, and provide details of meetings with stakeholders. These include:

  • making papers released in response to access to documents requests available on its website;
  • establishing a public register of TTIP documents, with links to those that are public and some information about those that are secret;
  • inviting groups to make public versions of documents they submit to the Commission for which they do want full disclosure; and
  • publishing online lists of meetings the Commission holds with stakeholders relating to TTIP.

The Commission has until 31 October to respond to the ombudsman’s suggestions and inquiry.

Ms O’Reilly calls on the Council to publish the negotiating directives which set out the Commission’s tasks and areas to cover during its discussions with the US on behalf of the EU’s 28 member countries. She asks it to respond by 30 September.

Elizabeth Hiester, senior lawyer at the NGO ClientEarth, says that her organisation wants to have access to documents submitted to the Commission by industry groups. These should not be kept confidential, she says, as happened when the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and American Chemistry Council (ACC) submitted a joint paper in December 2013 (CW 12 March 2014). « There is no reason why submissions from industry groups should be kept confidential, » she tells Chemical Watch.

Ms Hiester also wants NGOs to have access to the documents setting out what will be done as part of the two pilot projects covering prioritisation of chemicals for assessment and classification and labelling, which the Commission announced last week (CW 30 July 2014). « We want to contribute to them, and we need access to the documents to do that, » she says.

« The public should have the opportunity to read and comment on detailed proposals by governments regarding TTIP, such as what sort of access would be provided to the US government in various member state committees under REACH, » says Baskut Tuncak, staff attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel). The EU positions published so far have been vague about what is being discussed within the Commission and between the EU and the US, he adds (CW 15 May 2014).

Carmen Paun


On 8/8/2014 9:07 AM, Ben Beachy wrote:

Inside U.S. Trade – 08/08/2014

New TTIP Pilot Programs Show Chemical Industry Ideas Gaining Traction

Posted: August 7, 2014

The United States and the European Union are taking up two key proposals advanced by their respective chemicals industries with the launch of new pilot programs that will test how the industry ideas could be implemented to increase regulatory cooperation under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

According to an industry source, the two sides have yet to fully flesh out the two pilot programs, which were announced in an update on the TTIP talks issued July 29 by the European Commission. One of the pilot programs is expected to entail regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) figuring out how they might share the burden in testing substances that either side has prioritized for further assessment.

Although it is unclear how they might proceed in this area, two possible options for cooperation would be for each regulatory agency to divide up different phases of individual risk assessments, or split up the list of chemicals that are slated to be evaluated by both agencies and just share the data from the separate risk assessments at the end.

The U.S. and EU industries hope that this pilot program could pave the way for the establishment of a joint scientific committee under TTIP that would cooperate more regularly on risk assessments.

Under the second program, the sides are planning to cooperate on how to reduce divergences in their regimes for classification and labeling of chemicals, the commission indicated. The industry source, however, said the U.S. still seems to be internally evaluating whether and how to move forward with this particular program.

The agreement to launch these two pilot programs appears to be the first concrete action taken by the U.S. and EU to test some of the proposals for sectoral regulatory cooperation that have been explored by the TTIP talks. In other sectors, such as automobiles, the two sides are still trying to define what will be their objectives.

The move was welcomed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) as a sign that negotiators might finally be making headway toward identifying how they can foster greater regulatory cooperation in the chemicals sector, and be moving beyond a discussion that has so far focused on explaining how their different systems work.

« As the negotiations move forward, it will be important to define the ‘landing zone’ for the particular areas that chemical regulatory cooperation can be improved to deliver benefits for both the U.S. and EU, » Greg Skelton, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at ACC, said in a statement sent to Inside U.S. Trade.

« The proposed pilot projects, which highlight areas identified by industry on both sides of the Atlantic as priorities for chemical regulatory cooperation under TTIP, are a positive step forward as part of a collective effort to improve how chemicals are managed, » Skelton added.

The ACC and its European Union counterpart, Cefic, called for the U.S. and EU to cooperate on risk assessment and labeling in a joint proposal to TTIP negotiators last year. The groups generally argue that cooperation in these areas could lead to a more efficient use of regulator resources, speed up risk assessments for chemicals, and perhaps remove non-tariff barriers to trade created by divergences in classification and labeling practices.

But the launch of the pilot programs is likely to get a cooler reception from environmental advocates. Two non-governmental organizations, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and ClientEarth, in March published an analysis of the ACC-Cefic proposal in which they slammed the idea of conducting joint risk assessments for chemicals that have been prioritized for assessment because of potentially dangerous properties.

The groups’ main fear is that, with the EU outpacing the U.S. in its risk assessments, mandating more U.S-EU cooperation could slow the EU process and further hamper the « glacial » progress in evaluation by EPA — with limited gains in efficiency. They point out that there is little overlap among the lists of chemicals that either side has identified as priority substances requiring further evaluation and potentially stricter controls.

The agreement to move forward with these two chemical pilot programs was highlighted by the European Commission in the July 29 document, which broadly outlined the state-of-play in the TTIP negotiations, as one of the concrete outcomes of the sixth round of talks held in July in Brussels,

« It was agreed to test the initial ideas for cooperation in two pilot projects covering prioritization of chemicals for assessment, as well as classification and labeling, while fully respecting existing procedures on either side, » the commission document said.

This language was absent from a similar update published by the commission before the round that was published July 11. EPA officials did not respond to requests for comment on the two pilot programs before press time.

The way the U.S. and EU prioritize chemicals for risk assessment is similar, but the outcome to date has been markedly different. While both sides select substances on the basis of risk-based criteria, generally speaking, the EU has swept in a much broader swath of chemicals and is testing them at a much faster pace.

In the EU, substances are selected based both on the potential hazard they pose along with exposure and production volumes, then put on what is known as the « community rolling action plan » (CoRAP) list following the opinion of a member state committee. ECHA then conducts a risk assessment. If the risk assessment determines that a substance has not been properly controlled, it could be subject to further scrutiny and restrictions.

Chemicals are frequently added to the CoRAP, and including a draft program for 2014-2016, there are about 205 substances on the list. In 2012 and 2013, a total of 72 substances were evaluated, according to CIEL and Client Earth.

The EPA has a similar approach under the Toxic Substances Work Plan. In March 2012, it came up with a list of 83 substances based on criteria developed through stakeholder input. These include whether a substance has reproductive or developmental effects, neurotoxic effects, is a probable or known carcinogen, or is used in children’s products.

But since its launch, EPA has finished assessments on only five of the Work Plan substances. Even the chemicals industry acknowledges the slow place; Cefic, in a letter to the European Commission explaining its ideas for greater regulatory cooperation, estimated that, at EPA’s current pace, it may take more than 10 years to complete the tests.

There is also limited overlap between the two lists. An industry source said there are only a little more than a dozen or so common substances between the Work Plan list and what the EU currently has on deck under the CoRAP. Client Earth and CIEL said that — including the 2014-2016 CoRAP plan — 32 substances are common.

But the industry hopes that by cooperating and dividing the labor in the risk assessments, substances will not be left in limbo on the list for longer than necessary. The industry also sees this as potentially leading to the establishment of a joint scientific committee under TTIP that would cooperate more regularly.

On classification and labeling, ACC and Cefic have proposed that both sides study the differences in the way they have adopted the UN Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling (GHS), in order to assess what kind of impediments these divergences may be creating to trade.

They have also sought provisions in a TTIP deal that would require each side to create a mechanism enabling authorities to mutually recognize each other’s labels. But they have limited their ambition to looking at potential overlaps between the EU’s Regulation on classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures, and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard.

An industry source explained that while the EU has implemented the GHS system on in a more wholesale way under the regulation, the U.S. has only adopted the standard in the areas of workplace safety and transportation — not for environmental labeling or for consumer products — meaning that this effort would have a narrow scope.

He added that it is not even clear how much of a trade barrier the different systems really represent, and that initially the industry favors both sides conducting a study to determine what the impact the divergences has been. « Our position is, let’s figure out how big a problem this is before we try to design a solution, » he said.

CIEL and ClientEarth, however, have warned that the idea of fostering greater mutual recognition could undermine the labeling regimes established in either jurisdiction. As an example, they noted that EU regulators have a much broader list of substances required to be classified and labeled as carcinogenic than the EPA.

« Allowing mutual recognition (reciprocity) of compliant product labels would mean that products required to be labeled as a carcinogen in the EU but not the U.S. could be exported from the U.S. to the EU without being labeled as a carcinogen, erasing the level of protection established (democratically) by the EU, » they wrote. — Ben Hancock

Inside U.S. Trade – 08/08/2014, Vol. 32, No. 32


Ben Beachy, Research Director

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

215 Pennsylvania Ave., SE

Washington, DC 20003, USA