USCIB continues to maintain a high profile in the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum, which groups the United States and 20 other economies in the Asia-Pacific region. This is especially true in areas where we bring high functional expertise, such as customs, privacy and chemicals. The latter issue was among those addressed at this year’s first APEC senior officials meeting (SOM I) in Jakarta at the end of January and the beginning of February. (Indonesia has taken over from last year’s host, Russia; China is slated to serve as APEC host next year.)
Several USCIB members joined Helen Medina, director of life sciences and product policy, at the APEC Chemical Dialogue’s steering group meeting during SOM I. The Chemical Dialogue’s overall goals are to facilitate trade in the region through expanded cooperation and mutual recognition among chemical regulators, to enhance understanding of the chemical industry’s innovative role, and to encourage chemical product stewardship, safe use and sustainability.
This year, the Chemical Dialogue will continue to promote the implementation of the UN’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals – a set of guidelines aimed at simplifying regulations and labeling requirements, as well as improving safety and environmental protection – by APEC member economies. Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) and Australia are lending support to the effort by assembling a clearinghouse on labeling initiatives and case studies on how APEC economies are implementing the UN system.
Chemicals Dialogue members are also evaluating the implementation of the EU’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) initiative, which regulates use of chemicals throughout a product’s life cycle, and which has had a large impact on companies up and down the supply chain. USCIB’s Medina made the case that regional initiatives like REACH need to take account of the global impact such rules can have, given today’s highly integrated global production networks.
The treatment of confidential business information is an important issue in chemicals regulation and product policy. While regulators must collect product information in order to carry out their programs, companies also need to protect trade secrets. USCIB is leading an effort to survey APEC member economies on their treatment of confidential business information. “Companies must be committed to designing and selling products safe for the users and environment in all markets, and have the confidence that intellectual property will be protected,” commented Beth Hulse, global regulatory manager at GE.
A number of additional programs are underway in the APEC Chemical Dialogue to promote regulatory cooperation and analyze the potential hazards of specific products and substances. USCIB members came away impressed with the discussion in Jakarta. “The sessions provided in-depth insight into cooperation between economies to forge a fair regulatory framework that promotes trade and environmental awareness,” said Poh Cheng Oh, compliance program manager with Hewlett-Packard.
APEC’s 2nd senior officials meeting takes place April 6-19 in Surabaya, Indonesia and include a meeting of trade ministers. The next round of APEC Chemical Dialogue meetings will take place June 22-24, during SOM III, in Meden, Indonesia. The APEC Leaders Meeting takes place October 5-7 in Bali. You can read a 2-page backgrounder on USCIB’s activities and priorities for APEC in 2013 by clicking here.