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Aligning Chemical Classification, Labeling Is Goal of EU Delegates in Transatlantic Talks

Monday, May 19, 2014

By Stephen Gardner

May 15 --U.S. and European authorities may never be able to reconcile their regulatory schemes for chemicals and cosmetics, but they could cooperate more closely in a number of ways, including how they classify and label chemicals, according to two position papers published by the European Commission May 14.

The papers, which the commission said it published in the interest of transparency, noted that there is little scope for significantly harmonizing the regulatory regimes on either side of the Atlantic, but that the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) offers opportunities for sharing of information, scientific cooperation and mutual consultation at early stages in regulatory processes.

On chemicals, the commission said there is "great potential" for the EU and U.S. to align their substance classification and labeling regimes with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

The EU has implemented GHS through its 2008 CLP Regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 on the classification, labeling and packaging of substances and mixtures). The commission paper said that in the U.S., only the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has implemented GHS for chemicals used in the workplace, and there is scope for GHS implementation in other areas of U.S. chemicals regulation.

Over time, this could lead to harmonized EU-U.S. classifications for chemicals, which could "become a good basis for a global list," the commission paper said.

Regulatory Harmonization 'Not Feasible.'

The commission paper on chemicals also said that regulatory authorities could cooperate on prioritization of chemicals for assessment and on scientific research so that, for example, animal tests are not unnecessarily duplicated. The papers also cited the benefits of mutual consultation on emerging issues, such as regulation of endocrine disruptors and nanosubstances.

However, "neither full harmonisation nor mutual recognition [of chemicals regulation] seems feasible" because the EU's REACH law (Regulation No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals) and the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act are "too different," the commission paper said.

The commission paper on cosmetics also said that TTIP could result in greater scientific collaboration and converging labeling requirements. In addition, the EU and U.S. could recognize one another's lists of banned and permitted cosmetics ingredients, and could minimize differences in their standards and guidance related to cosmetics manufacturing.

The two papers on the EU position on chemicals and cosmetics in TTIP were published alongside similar papers on motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, and textiles and clothing.

Industry Backs Commission Approach.

Lena Perenius, executive director for International Chemicals Management at the European Chemical Industry Council, told Bloomberg BNA May 15 the commission paper on chemicals was "on the right path," and a "realistic approach."

The approach outlined in the paper would "maintain the right of regulators to regulate," but would lead in the long run to greater alignment of the scientific basis for regulation of chemicals, Perenius said.

She added that scientific cooperation could be emphasized more strongly in the trans-Atlantic negotiations.

The European Chemicals Agency in a statement to Bloomberg BNA May 15 said that on chemicals, it had been "regularly consulted and has provided technical input to the commission in relation to the TTIP negotiations."

Greg Skelton, senior director of international regulatory and technical affairs for the American Chemistry Council, said in a May 15 statement, "We were pleased to see that the EU position on chemical regulatory cooperation echoes many of the priorities identified in earlier industry submissions, including increased cooperation on prioritization and coherence in chemical assessment, enhanced data and information sharing, and further cooperation on new and emerging issues.

"ACC also supports further work on classification and labeling, including reducing or eliminating the need for dual classifications, although we would prefer that the U.S. and EU defer to the UN Global List of Classified Chemicals as a common classification inventory rather than establishing their own."

Skelton also said the EU documents are "silent on two key priorities for ACC: greater transparency in the regulatory process (including in regulator to regulator dialogue); and enhanced scientific cooperation, which could help minimize the potential for imposing additional regulatory barriers when revising or developing new regulations."

The fifth round of TTIP talks take place in Arlington, Va., May 19-23.

By Stephen Gardner

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com


The European Commission papers on chemicals and cosmetics are available at http://bit.ly/1g5wzI7.

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