REACH is biggest barrier to EU trade for US SMEs, warns SOCMA

Chemicals registration programme is having a disproportionate economic impact on these firms

The US Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) is unhappy about what it views as the 'disproportionate economic impact' that trade barriers are having on small and medium-sized US manufacturers (SMEs) exporting to the European Union (EU).

With a comprehensive trade agreement now being negotiated between the US and EU, SOCMA's Vice President of Government and Public Relations, Bill Allmond, speaking before the International Trade Commission (ITC), offered recommendations on how to strengthen dialogue and make the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) programme more workable for US manufacturers.

Allmond said 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.

'It has had a significant impact on the way companies operate in the EU market and the resources devoted to testing and compliance,' he said. 'Even the European Commission’s (EC) REACH review concluded that the impact of REACH on SMEs was disproportionate.'

SOCMA members, of which more than 80% 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 will not 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 include the ability to communicate with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), transparency, and registration updates and maintenance, he warned.

To improve the REACH programme, SOCMA recommends creating a small business ombudsman within ECHA and other regulatory bodies to evaluate the potential impact of legislation on SMEs.

Allmond also called for an increase in ECHA staff availability to provide additional support to SMEs.

'Increased transparency in nominating chemicals to various lists, as well as enforcement across member states would also be useful,' he added.