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Bush Tries To Weaken EU Chemical Reforms, Environmental Groups Say
(Beyond Pesticides, September 18, 2003) Over 70 U.S. health and environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) released a report on September 9, 2003 documenting how the Bush administration has been working hard to influence the European Union's chemical reform policy called REACH (Register, Evaluate and Authorise new Chemicals). The NGOs, which include groups like World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Working Group, Health and Environmental Justice, Greenpeace, Women's Cancer Resource Center and other cancer institutes and nursing associations, claim that the EU plan would be an improvement in chemicals regulation for Europeans and charge the U.S. government with trying to undermine the efforts of Europeans to protect their environment and public health.

A flurry of fierce lobbying in the EU by both NGOs and the chemical industry began in February 2001 when, in response to public concern, the EU released the plan (REACH) to reform its overall chemical regulatory policy by requiring manufacturers to provide information about the effects on health and environment of their products before the products can be approved for use on the market. The plan would also provide a method for restricting use of the most dangerous chemicals. It is a broad-based reform, covering all chemicals that would fall under the EU chemical policy. According to EurActiv, a leading European online media source, roughly 30,000 chemicals currently in use in the EU have never been seriously tested for public use.

Using internal government documents from the EPA, the State Department, the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. health and environmental NGOs build their case that the Bush administration is essentially representing the interests of the U.S. chemical industry. In one example, the report argues that an undated U.S. "non-paper" submitted to the EU, "effectively replicated the viewpoint of the chemical industry into the U.S. government position," and "quoted chemical industry financial estimates nearly word for word to make the argument."

Both the U.S. and the EU chemical industry have been actively opposing REACH and claim that the new regulations are too burdensome and would be devastating to the industry's competitiveness, international trade, and ultimately result in a loss of thousands of jobs.

EU NGOs on the hand argue that REACH barely goes far enough and has been subject to excessive legislative footdragging. The U.S. NGOs, who join their counterparts in the EU in criticizing the claims of the industry, highlight the need for government to safeguard the public against toxic chemicals and draw attention to the innovative benefits of the chemical reforms, which could result in cleaner, more environmentally friendly products. In a letter to President Bush, the NGOs call on the administration to recognize the potential benefits of the European plan to consumers and businesses in the U.S. and urge the government to stop all efforts to undermine EU chemicals policy reforms.

Final EU legislative proposals are expected in October or November, 2003.
A copy of the September 9, 2003 NGO report can be found at http://www.cleanproduction.org/AAbase/default.htm
EuroActiv reporting on the varying arguments for and against REACH by governments, industry and NGOs, can be accessed at: http://www.euractiv.com/cgi-bin/cgint.exe?204&OIDN=1506176&-home=home
For more information by Beyond Pesticides on the EU and chemicals see:
Pesticides Withdrawn as UK Moves into Line with EU Directive, Daily News, July 28, 2003.