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Reaching REACH: The Challenge for Chemicals Entering International Trade

By Doaa Abdel Motaal

Abstract

Europe accounts for approximately 50% of the world's chemical imports, having imported over $160 billion worth of chemicals in 2007. Some of the principal chemicals exporters to Europe are the United States, Switzerland, Singapore, China, Japan and Russia. In being such a large player on the international stage, any change to Europe's chemical regulations unsurprisingly reverberates in international trade. Enacted in 2007, Europe's new REACH regulation has represented no less than full overhaul of Europe's chemicals management regime and, in doing so, has led to some consternation at the World Trade Organization (WTO). This article describes the various provisions of REACH, comparing REACH to the prevailing chemicals management regime in the world's second major importer of chemicals, the United States. It finds that REACH reverses the burden of proof and burden of work from the regulator to the manufacturer. The article then sets out the full scope of the trade concerns that WTO members have raised with respect to REACH, arguing that since pre-registration under REACH has barely ended, the jury is still out how effective this overhaul will be. Oxford University Press 2009, all rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

DOI identifier: 10.1093/jiel
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