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SOCMA ‘REACH’es out to Trade Commission

January 1, 2014

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) testified before the International Trade Commission (ITC) about the disproportionate economic impact trade barriers have on small and medium-sized US manufacturers (SMEs) exporting to the European Union (EU).

With a comprehensive trade agreement now being negotiated between the EU and US, Bill Allmond, SOCMA’s vice president of government and public relations, offered recommendations on how to strengthen dialogue and make the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program more workable for US manufacturers.

REACH, founded on a precautionary principle rather than the US risk-based approach to chemicals management, is the largest barrier SOCMA members face in exporting to the EU, Allmond said. “It has had a significant impact on the way companies operate in the EU market and the resources devoted to testing and compliance. Even the European Commission’s (EC) REACH review concluded that the impact of REACH on SMEs was disproportionate.”

SOCMA member companies, more than 80% of which are SMEs, anticipated spending between $200,000 and $250,000 to register chemicals in the EU in 2010. And these numbers could increase as the 2018 deadline approaches because costs won’t be split among multiple producers.

In addition to costs for testing, hiring a representative and translating and reformatting paperwork needed to comply with REACH, other key issues impacting exports to the EU include the ability to communicate with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), transparency, and registration updates and maintenance.

SOCMA’s recommendations for improving the program include creating a small business ombudsman within ECHA and other regulatory bodies to evaluate potential impact of legislation on SMEs. Allmond also called for an increase in ECHA staff availability, where SMEs could get additional support. Increased transparency in nominating chemicals to various lists, as well as enforcement across member states would also be useful. And finally, he asked for follow-up with the EC’s regulatory review of REACH published in May 2013 to address challenges in advance of the 2018 deadline.
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